The department of communications is determined that SA will meet a self-imposed deadline of switching off analogue television broadcasts by December 2013.
Deputy communications minister Obed Bapela says “notwithstanding recent delays in the roll-out of digital terrestrial television broadcasting, the process is now back on track”.
“We still plan to switch on the digital signal in April 2012, with the dual illumination period ending in December 2013,” Bapela says. “This is a shortened migration process, compared to other countries, yet we believe it is possible because of the nature of the partnership we have established with all role players in the value chain.”
Telecommunications operators are keen to get access to the frequency that will be freed up from migration to provide wireless broadband, especially outside the country’s dense urban centres. The 800MHz band is particularly well suited to providing broadband communications in outlying areas.
Bapela says digital terrestrial television “offers immense opportunities for the sector to take advantage of new innovations. In particular, government has taken a deliberate decision to use this opportunity to facilitate the local manufacture of set-top boxes and other related facilities.”
Bapela says production of set-top boxes must start by January or February next year.
Though there have been delays in publishing a final technical specification for the set-top boxes, the department’s Robert Nkuna says communications minister Roy Padayachie will meet with industry players within the next two weeks to iron out differences.
According to Nkuna, there have been disagreements between industry players of what sort of encryption system will be used in the boxes.
“We will be ready to take [the specification] to cabinet [for approval] in the next two weeks or so,” he says.
Government will subsidise up to 5m set-top boxes for sale into poorer households. The department hopes to appoint the companies that will manufacture these before December so that first products will be available in time for the digital switch-on in April. — Staff reporter, TechCentral