South Africa may have to wait until 2017 to complete its migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television, missing the mid-2015 deadline government agreed to with the International Telecommunication Union by two years.
This is the takeaway from the budget vote for the department of communications, which is now leading the migration project.
In the budget vote, the communications department is tasked with ensuring the “successful migration from analogue to digital television in South Africa within two years”.
Some other African countries, including Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya and Mauritius are well ahead of South Africa in their migration plans.
After 17 June, the ITU will no longer protect countries from cross-border radio spectrum interference from those that have completed their projects.
More seriously, the delays in the project mean telecommunications operators must wait longer for access to the “digital dividend”, spectrum currently used for analogue broadcasting that is ideally suited for delivering broadband in underserviced areas.
South Africa’s digital migration project has been delayed for years, most recently because of disagreements about whether the department of communications or the department of telecommunications & postal services would run it.
The telecoms department’s budget vote, also published by national treasury on Wednesday, makes it clear that it will “support” the communications department with the project. Ironically, the telecoms budget vote says the department’s role is to ensure the migration project is completed by June 2015 — to meet the ITU deadline.
The Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) will administer a subsidy scheme for set-top boxes, with the telecoms department to provide a subsidy to Sentech for implementing dual illumination, where both analogue and digital signals coexist for a period of time.
Over the next three years, R1bn will be transferred to Usaasa for the project. — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media