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Digital switchover: FreeTV users lament faulty decoders, poor signal, reactivation issues

Digital switchover: FreeTV users lament faulty decoders, poor signal, reactivation issues
May 22
06:45 2021

On April 29, 2021, the second phase of the digital switchover (DSO) rollout took off in Lagos. The launch in Lagos came five years after the DSO rollout was first unveiled in Nigeria, beginning with Plateau, the capital of Jos, in April 2016. By 2018, the first-phase train had moved through the federal capital territory (FCT) and four other states — Kwara, Kaduna, Enugu, and Osun.

The DSO television platform, branded as FreeTV, is designed to provide 60 digital channels to Nigerians who are unable to afford the subscription fees of PayTV platforms — and it costs just N1500 per year for the access fee.

According to information from its website, FreeTV boasts of 320,000 active subscribers, and the platform’s range — which “covers the existing local, national, and selected international free-to-air channels” — is focused on “delivering Nigerian digital incentive channels with improved signal reception and picture quality directly to homes via set-top boxes”.

However, five years after entering the market, FreeTV is bedevilled with service delivery challenges and subscribers often take to social media to complain of irregularities.

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The complaints cut across reactivation issues, faulty decoders, frequent error codes, insufficient number of stations, unavailable/unresponsive customer care lines, and poor signals.

David Peter, a dish installer based in Lagos, has helped many customers set up the decoders. He said FreeTV needs to increase its signal and attend to customers’ complaints.

“The box is okay, just that some channels are not in HD. I think FreeTV should increase their signal,” he told TheCable.

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“The network always goes off. I know of a customer whose decoder stopped working because he did not use it for while. He called customer care several times with no response. He texted FreeTV on Twitter, up till now no reply.”

THE SEARCH FOR SIGNAL

Peter’s observation was confirmed by many social media users who have experienced the same issues, especially signal quality.

After complaining, the FreeTV users who manage to get a response are told to direct their antennas towards specific locations to get a better signal.

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For instance, Lagos antennas are expected to face the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) location in Yaba; for Abuja, all antennas should look to the Mpape area, while in Ilorin, Kwara state, the direction is towards Ganmo.

Apart from antenna positioning and other issues, users often complain about picture quality, unstable audio, lack of sufficient content for children, and access fee renewal headaches on FreeTV’s social media platforms.

Ehibor Loveday, a Facebook user, said he couldn’t reactivate, subscribe or refresh the decoder, while Imo Dominic, another Facebook user, had the same complaint.

“I recharged but can’t view any reasonable channel for almost a year now. I have to abandon it,” Dominic said.

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Temiloluwa, a Twitter user, said: “My FreeTV has been displaying no signal for almost a month now. I have tried to reset and all but it’s not working.”

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“I got FreeTV last November, about 6 months ago but I can’t see any station again. I was told only need a subscription after a year. Please I’ll appreciate some help,” Ayo, another user, said.

Tanimu Usman complained about access, despite reportedly calling agents “more than 50 times”, while Muhammadu, another user on Twitter said he could get picture but no sound.

Another user, who identified as Sanda Lawal, said he had subscribed but was getting notice of expiration.

In an interview with TheCable, Franca Aiyetan, NBC spokesperson, said the commission is working on the technical issues of the DSO rollout.

She added that the commission will investigate complaints about the FreeTV platform not answering calls and attending to customers.

“The NBC is doing a lot with its technical department and the signal distributors and making efforts to resolve the gap issues. They are being taken care of,” Aiyetan said.

She added that most of the issues raised about the DSO will be resolved before the final switchover.

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