Two years ago we spoke (seehere) about the frequency allocation plan wanted by the government to free up channels and allow new broadcasters access to the FM band. But once the channeling was done, the wave of protest from the radio stations mounted, struggling with more interference than before. So the regulatory authority (Macra) froze the allocations and is reviewing the authorisations, removing the channels requested but not activated, and checking the payments of the concessions. As Red Tech magazine explains, there is now an attempt to make room by ‘tightening the bolts’: six radio stations in arrears with their license fees (Angaliba FM, Capital Radio, Sapitwa FM, Joy Radio, Ufulu FM, and Galaxy FM) have already been affected, but this could become 23 of the 54 actives in the country. But couldn’t this have been thought of earlier, saving the consultancy costs?
The Malawi government will review the airwaves planning that the African country’s communications regulator had initiated in 2019 to address problems generated by channel saturation. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) had tasked the UK-based Casitel, an independent consultancy, with optimising the use of frequenciesto allow new stations to open (see our article here). But some radio stations have complained, claiming that switching on new secondary installations to reduce the power of the main one has, on the contrary, generated disturbances. Such as Radio Islam, which by reducing its power from 500 to 200 W is now suffering interference from Radio Maria on 89.9 operating in the Dedza district, which transmits on the same frequency in the Mangochi district. Joy Radio, on the other hand, is complaining about the increased cost of recalibrating its transmitter in order to change frequency.
Kuwala FM, a broadcaster of the Archdiocese of Blantyre, Malawi, was created to appeal to over 2 million listeners. It is the fourth regional radio of the Catholic Church in the country, after Radio Alinafe of the archdiocese of Lilongwe, Radio Tigabane of the diocese of Mzuzu and Tuntufye FM of the diocese of Karonga. The communications coordinator of the Archdiocese of Blantyre, Father Frank Mwinganyama, plans to go on air by the end of 2020. Radio Maria Malawi, Luntha Television and Montfort Media also operate in the diocese of Mangochi.
Repeaters are to be turned off, transmitting power to be reduced, and frequencies to be reallocated, all in order to decongest the FM frequencies in this West African country, where they have 56 radio stations with a total of about 200 channels. MACRA – Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority stopped issuing new radio broadcast licenses and called for a tender for the reorganisation of the radio frequencies. This was subsequently won by the English consulting firm, CASiTEL.
The three phase plan
The consulting firm mapped out the current FM network and created a database of the frequencies and broadcasting sites. They examined the FM network coverage, identified the areas impacted by interference and presented a plan to significantly improve the quality of service. Finally, they optimised the broadcasting services coverage to enable the introduction of a greater number of channels that will be issued broadcasting licenses in the course of 2020.