Communications minister Roy Padayachie says the country is on track to switch off analogue terrestrial television broadcasts by December 2013, paving the way for spectrum that will be freed up through the migration process to be reallocated.
Padayachie says digital television should be launched to the public in April next year.
His remarks come as broadcasters privately express reservations about the deadline for switch-off of analogue broadcasts, saying it’s too tight.
Padayachie, speaking in parliament on Tuesday, says the department of communications plans to “implement interventions” to ensure SA meets its self-impose deadline for the move to digital broadcasts.
He says state-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech will switch on its first test transmission using the second generation of the European standard for digital broadcasts next month at the Brixton tower in Johannesburg. By the end of next year, the company will have achieved 80% population coverage using the new standard.
“We intend to achieve 100% population coverage by the end of 2013 to enable analogue signal switch-off,” Padayachie says.
A manufacturing strategy and a subsidy for set-top boxes (STBs) — the decoders necessary to receive digital broadcasts — will be submitted to cabinet in August.
“This will pave the way for us to select the preferred STB manufacturers for the subsidised market by November 2011 and deploying the necessary infrastructure for the distribution of the subsidised STBs,” Padayachie says.
He adds that he expects the SA Bureau of Standards to finalise the second generation DVB-T2 standard during the last quarter of 2011. STB manufacturers can start building decoders as soon as this process is concluded, he says.
The manufacturing of subsidised STBs will commence following cabinet approval.
“The uptake of digital broadcasting technology will expand the public bouquet in content viewing. For example, it will increase the number of channels from the current three SABC channels to over 10.” — Staff reporter, TechCentral