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Pay TV services boom in rural Kenya on low charges, good signal 

FUNYULA, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- On top of the house made of mud walls and iron sheets in Funyula, Busia County, a rural district in western Kenya, is a satellite dish belonging to a leading broadcaster.

A black cable snakes from the dish into the house where it links to a 32-inch flat screen TV, from where the owner - Vincent Otiato, a primary school teacher - connects with the rest of the world by watching movies, local and international news, wildlife shows and football.

Otiato has been using the pay TV service for the last three years, enjoying the world-class television in the rural village and he is not about to stop.

“Ever since I bought my first TV after getting employed in this area, I have never used the free-to-air services because the signal is poor. Pay TV is our only savior,” he said on Wednesday, noting he pays 2,400 Kenyan shillings (23.5 U.S. dollars) every month for the service.

Otiato had a choice of not subscribing to the service but good programming and low monthly costs have made him fall in love with pay TV.

The teacher is one of the many residents in rural Kenya hooked to pay TV services due to weak free-to-air signal, good programming that include international football matches, and low charges.

So popular is pay TV in rural areas that walking around villages in Busia and the neighboring Siaya County, one may think that residents are competing to own the gadgets.

“If you don’t get the dish, you will not watch Kenyan TV stations because of the weak signal. The free-to-air set-top-boxes do not work these sides. I bought one and it did not work before switching to pay TV,” said Calvin Abuya, a retired government worker.

Abuya noted that he pays 3.9 dollars for the service every month, money that he comfortably gets from his monthly pension.

“I have been using the service for the last two years. I had no choice after relocating to the village from Kisumu where I worked. I tried using free-to-air services but it did not work because the TV was picking Ugandan channels,” he said.

Boom in pay TV services in the Kenyan villages has offered job opportunities to technicians who walk around fixing the gadgets for people in case they malfunction.

Johannes Bwire, 42, is a pay TV technician in Bunyala, Budalangi, and every day, he responds to calls from several people seeking his services.

“Some call me to have their dishes reinstalled onto the houses while others have signal problems with the TV. I charge at least 3.9 dollars for the work,” said Bwire, who owns a motorbike to facilitate faster movement in villages.

The technician noted a majority of the households which own TV sets in the village use pay TV services, with some of the dishes installed on grass thatched houses.

“Besides the poor signal, the love for football is one of the major reasons some young people, including myself, subscribed to pay TV. People want to follow the games as they bet, so it becomes convenient to have the service in your house,” he said.

As of the end of September, some 5.04 million households in Kenya owned TV sets with 1.2 million using pay TV services, according to the latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

The digital terrestrial television signal population coverage across the east African nation stood at 86 percent, said the CA.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution, noted that low charges by pay TV service providers following increased competition have made it affordable for citizens especially in the rural areas embrace the service.

He added that increased adoption of pay TV in rural Kenya shows the service is no longer a preserve of the rich and it is falling into the level of a basic need.

             

 

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