Digital migration has 'failed' - TechCentral

Digital migration has ‘failed’

Marian Shinn

South Africa’s long-delayed project to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial television has “failed”.

That’s the view of Democratic Alliance MP and shadow minister of telecommunications & postal services Marian Shinn, who said on Tuesday that the programme “urgently needs to be revised” if South Africa is going to move off analogue broadcasts.

Digital migration is crucial not only for opening up South Africa’s terrestrial broadcasting sector to greater competition, but also making available the “digital dividend” bands of 700MHz and 800MHz for mobile broadband.

Shinn said in a statement that the project’s “failure” needs urgent intervention. She said she has written to Humphrey Maxegwana, chairman of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, requesting that he hold a two-day public hearing of ICT stakeholders to evaluate the status of the roll-out, its technological relevance and affordability.

“The aim of these hearings should be to thrash out a new path for the switchover to digital broadcasting technology to free up spectrum used by analogue broadcasting for much-needed mobile broadband use, mainly in rural areas,” she said.

Shinn said that “after years of delays and political meddling”, the programme is now “being held up because of legal challenges to the revised broadcasting digital migration policy that [communications]minister Faith Muthambi bamboozled through her cabinet colleagues in March 2015”.

But Muthambi’s office has hit back, saying her record of delivery in digital migration “speaks for itself”.

The minister had reversed an earlier government decision on encryption of terrestrial broadcasting signals, decided that government-subsidised set-top boxes — as many as 5m of them were meant to be produced — will not be capable of receiving encrypted broadcasts. E.tv won a court challenge at the supreme court of appeal in Bloemfontein. Muthambi, with the support of MultiChoice, is now challenging that judgment in the constitutional court.

The constitutional court will hear the case next month.

Faith Muthambi

“I maintain that, even if the court decides in Muthambi’s favour, a review is essential as the programme is obsolete, unaffordable and riddled with irregularities that mean that it cannot proceed in its current form and must be revised,” Shinn said.

In support of her contention that the project has failed, Shinn said government did not meet the International Telecommunication Union’s deadline of 15 June 2015 to switch off analogue broadcasting signals and failed to stimulate the entrance of new small and medium electronics manufacturers into the sector. Also, government failed to deliver 5m subsidised set-top boxes to identified indigent South African households.

“Poorer South Africans will continue to be excluded from economic opportunities, worldwide information flow and ease of communication with all spheres of government service delivery if the digital migration programme is not rapidly and radically revised.”

Meanwhile, the communications ministry has hit back at Shinn’s allegations, saying Muthambi’s record of delivery on digital migration “speaks for itself”.

Muthambi’s spokesman, Mish Molakeng, said: “It is imperative to note that the project was handed over to the ministry of communications on 30 January 2015. Three months later, on 18 March 2015, the policy was gazetted. The first South African citizen received a subsidised set-top-box in Keimos on 17 December 2015. All this happened within a 12-month period.

“In October last year, the ministry successfully switched off the first analogue transmitter in the Square Kilometre Array areas in the Northern Cape and we continue to switch off many more in the area. The uptake of set-top boxes continues to gain traction nationally,” Molakeng said.  — © 2017 NewsCentral Media

64 Comments

  1. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>South Africa’s long-delayed project to migrate from analogue to digital
    terrestrial television has “failed”, the Democratic Alliance has said.

    Wow! that’s very observant of you Shinn and only took you just over 15 years to realize.

  2. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Would’ve thought that in 2017 you would have become less predictable and have taken a leaf out from Trump’s way of expressing his true self…

    …hey but if that’s the best line that is to be found between your ears; who am I to judge LMAO!!

  3. Yet this walking disgrace of what passes for a cabinet minister, one Faith Muthambi is permitted by her boss/protector, Jacob Zuma to continue in her position and further fatally damage the future of communications in this country.
    Muthambi should NEVER have been appointed in the first place, she is obviously incompetent and totally out of her depth in a senior position as was witnessed by all who watched her so-called testimony at the SABC hearings.
    Or, let me rephrase that last sentence, the testimony of the THREE MINDERS she was receiving crib notes from all the time she was facing the committee!
    How this Muthambi individual can pick up her salary without blushing is beyond me.
    Incidentally how many more of these ANC crony, natural disasters are we going to see Zuma appoint as Communications Ministers? One would imagine that Dina was enough but no, along comes Faith to keep up Zuma’s record of cabinet/SA destruction.

  4. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    …well Charlie, does it detract from the fact that from the onset when the DA also supported this absurd migration plan; it had BIG FAIL written all over it???

  5. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Which plan did the DA support? The ANC have floated so many it’s hard to keep up. And that’s the problem… so much bumbling, so many false starts… we’re still at the start line.

  6. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>we’re still at the start line.

    …and that would also be thanks to same government “subsidy plan” interference which as I recall you were also a BIG fan.

  7. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>the testimony of the THREE MINDERS she was receiving crib notes from all the time she was facing the committee!

    Agh shame baas Davebee… that must’ve been really crushing for you to see your “beloved crush” placed in such an awkwardly precarious situation when she could have relied on crib notes from her one and only true love, baas Davebee.

  8. Greg Mahlknecht on

    There’s nothing wrong with a subsidy plan if implemented correctly. It was not implemented correctly.

  9. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    …and that is why experiences with hindsight are there to sharpen our foresight so that we can benefit from the learnings and not have an instance presented where one can say –

    “I told you so…” …but yes, I did tell you so.

  10. Greg Mahlknecht on

    No dude… there’s no silver lining here… it was a screwup of epic proportions, and it doesn’t seem that anything was learned in the process. Useless unqualified cronies are still appointed to critical positions. Was anything learned from Ivy’s disastrous reign? Nope. We got another useless idiot, then another, then another.

  11. There was never any need for a subsidy plan from the start.TV is NOT a basic human need like food, clean drinking water or education.

    It also could easily be foreseen that the ANC Gov would make a mess of it. And that it would be riddled with corruption, delays and massive cost overruns.

  12. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >> there’s no silver lining here…

    …and who said there was a silver lining to supporting ETV and their position of encryption on FTA signals –

    Quite right –

    >>Useless unqualified cronies are still appointed to critical positions.

    …and even to positions of being shadow ministers.

  13. > But Muthambi’s office has hit back, saying her record of delivery in digital migration “speaks for itself”.

    I’m not sure if this indicates that hte Minister is a total idiot or a complete liar…

  14. Yes, i agree, it is obvious. But it’s not being taken seriously and even the Minister seems to think she’s doing a good job. So we need more noise about this. If that means the DA rolls out the obvious,l then we should support it. I’d love for the EFF to also join this bandwagon, because Digital Migration in SA is a total embarrassment.

  15. What plan? There’s a plan?

    Seriously, though, yes, a lot of local politicians got behind this. So the DA isn’t entirely clean. Yet this has been the Minister’s responsibility and she had clearly been a major barrier in making any of it happen. If politicians need to switch sides to get this project done, then so be it.

    I want digital migration done with. And though finger-pointing is not how we will get there, it is clear the Minister is the big problem here and she has to go.

  16. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>because Digital Migration in SA is a total embarrassment.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself James…

    >Digital Migration in SA is a total embarrassment.

    Yep! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  17. Greg Mahlknecht on

    I was never a big fan like Vusi suggests, I see it as a necessary evil. There are simply too many people out there that couldn’t afford a STB for the signal conversion. If this process was done right, we’d have chosen a standard DVB-T2 implementation, so that it worked with built-in digital tuners, and then over time Samsung/Hisense/etc would foot the bill for the converters, as new sets rotate in to use to minimize the long term costs of said subsidy.

  18. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    All that we needed from government was an analogue switch-off date that would be implemented preferably even before the June 17, 2015 ITU deadline –

    …the market would’ve taken care of itself; but we’re not even out of the starting blocks because of interference from both government and the opposition who share the blame equally for this disastrous situation.

  19. I will defer to your superior knowledge. After all it was you made the following prediction on TechCentral on 11 April 2016 regarding the August local elections:

    “Try this prediction from a seasoned WINNER… The ANC has demonstrated in almost every by-election held; that it has certainly stemmed the back-footing position and has been making significant gains even in opposition strongholds… thanks to the EFF exposing the opposition for what it really is; and all the opposition clowns pathetically following the lead of the EFF. The ANC will be remaining stable with some surprise gains; the DA will get to feel what it’s like to be COPE; who will be disappearing off the political landscape and the people’s party will remain as has been; and will always be the case, in the position of power, to get independents to work with them.”

  20. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Oh Charlie… I can see how

    >>your superior knowledge.

    …would integrally associate such a remark with digital migration – the remark certainly does speak to core of the topic. LMAO!!

    It must’ve taken you some time to find that and make the association to –

    South Africa’s long-delayed project to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial television has “failed”, the Democratic Alliance has said.

  21. Is this the sort of pathetic one-liner repartee that passes for humour at the lunch pavement outside the SABC’s offices?
    You cribbed that from one of Faith’s Minder’s notes I would guess.

  22. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>humour at the lunch pavement outside the SABC’s offices?

    What you should be focusing on baas Davebee, is the blue X5 that your crush pays you to watch when visiting us at the SABC;

    …didn’t anyone ever tell you that it’s rude to eavesdrop.

  23. Greg Mahlknecht on

    No comment, but I’ll say just because I support the DA, I’m not enthusiastic about every single one of their apointees 🙂

  24. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >I’m not sure if this indicates that the Minister is a total idiot or a complete liar…

    yes.

  25. Yunis Carrim came up with a very reasonable solution to the impasse between broadcasters on the STB encryption issue, but he was tossed out by Zuma because the anti-encryption lobby spread malicious rumours that he was in bed with eTV. Muthambi then overturned Carrim’s solution in favour of the anti-encryption lobby. Now eTV has challenged her decision in court, but USAASA is still rolling out STBs without encryption. This means that if Muthambi and MultiChoice lose the Constitutional Court case, these boxes will be illegal and government will have to replace them – i.e. huge waste of money.

    Muthambi is probably a victim of disinformation from the MultiChoice-Motsoeneng alliance, but personally I have no faith in her ability to handle the DTT migration effectively. Her record in this matter does indeed speak for itself, but what it says is not complimentary concerning her management of the process. The migration is way behind schedule and there are many areas where the process is mired in incompetence.

  26. Anakin StealthVader on

    ALL politics aside, the only way out, as I see it now is to subsidize OVHD installations to encourage viewers on VHF & UHF bands to switch to a dish installation.

    Here are some of the pro’s I can think of now:

    1. Extremely good coverage countrywide. Very limited ‘bad pockets of no reception’ as it’s a satellite based service. Yes there could be small areas where the satellite ‘horizon’ is blocked by extremely steep terrain but these would be 1% or less. With DTT you need ‘line of sight’ on a horizontal plane which makes this problem even worse – a small hill in between can cut off the DTT transmitter’s signal.

    2. With a subsidized installation voucher OVHD is an easier installation than DTT, as in both cases you need to check and align the antenna/dish for optimum performance.

    3. Satellite dishes in general can withstand unfavourable weather conditions better such as high winds, provided it’s properly locked onto it’s mounting.

    4. Conventional outdoor aerials have a higher tendency to attract lightning and hence the mast always need to be properly earthed/grounded to avoid indoor structural damage and risk of fire. Hence lightning rods need to be installed directly on top of any antenna mast (earthed!) to reduce the risk of a direct lightning strike, the only exception being if there is already a proper working lightning mast installed on the property.

    With a satellite system you can simply unplug it during a thunderstorm provided the structure on which the dish is mounted doesn’t attract lightning to start with – grass huts and dome-shaped structures need a proper and standalone lightning protection mast with it’s own earth mat to bleed away charges that build up before a direct lightning strike on the structure/building/home can occur.
    ( To prevent lightning flashovers never ever install any dish or antenna in close proximity to trees, power lines or copper telephone lines ).

    5. OVHD is not encrypted and hence gets around this ever-revolving-door issue of encryption or no encryption (this issue can carry on in the courts ad infinitum)

    The only ‘against OVHD’ objection I can think of is that it won’t be a total freebie from the govt, but consider what happens when viewers receive their DTT freebie set-top box and ‘oops’ an outdoor antenna still needs to be installed – who pays for it and where can DTT first-time viewers get their DTT aerials? [ The price can easily go up to R600 for a high-gain DTT aerial or worse stock may not be available in certain rural areas ]

    DTT’s time has come and gone, and it’s simply pointless throwing more and more resources at it now – it’s core technology is now obsolete.

  27. “i.e. huge waste of money.”

    What a massive understatement. Already in Aug 2015 well researched articles appeared that showed that already R 9 Billion was spent on this Digital Migration.

    By now we must be around R 11 Billion.
    Sentech used only R 2-3 Billion on kitting out their towers with DVB-T2 transmission equipment. The rest has gone to the mad idea of Total State Control of all STB local manufacturing, imports and distributing 5m or more free STBs to the poor. And endless bureaucracy and inefficiencies plus corruption.

  28. I suggested ages ago, probably the last 2 years to scrap DTT completely, with also stating that the poor households can easily switch to OVHD. No need for subsidies.
    Indeed DTT has come and gone.

    OVHD has an encryption built in the decoder, you have to activate services by sending a USSD message from your cell, stating the serial number.
    USAASA, a Gov agency has organised with installers to provide also for FREE aerial installation.

    Read the article: Muthambi ignoring DA on TV box report. It is on the right top of this web page, below: articles by comments.

  29. Vusi, it is so good to see your back on TC !
    Did you get your share of that R 50 m social media disinformation, fake news fund of your favourite “Movement” ?

    That is why you were of to the Bahamas for some time, I guess. Did you manage to stash away some moola over there, on a bank at the Caymans, maybe.
    BTW, the DTT process started only in 2008 properly.

  30. The Navigator on

    Yes, indeed, it DOES “speak for itself.” It exposes the incompetence and graft behind this entire programme of procurement of obsolete technology.

  31. The Navigator on

    Do we all not ever learn? This DTT and STBs initiative has nothing to do with provision of service to anyone. It’s all about awarding corrupt production and supply contracts for the chosen ones.

    The boxes don’t even have to work. In fact, they won’t, because the technology is obsolete already. Remember the stand-alone toilets in the bushes and never-built RDP houses … same thing.

  32. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    LMAO!!

    >>BTW, the DTT process started only in 2008 properly.

    You know that 15years is the convenient number for any lengthy SA process that wouldn’t have the NP responsible 🙂

    >>That is why you were of to the Bahamas for some time, I guess.

    Nope…

    I was keeping a close eye on things in the US and just as well – wouldn’t have wanted to be caught out like Vladimir Putin as to which side I was secretly benefiting from a –

    >>social media disinformation, fake news fund

  33. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Eish! Anakin… you had to go and ruin this perfectly reasonable solution by having OVHD written in almost every paragraph;

    Let’s attempt to fix this so it works for every body; shall we –

    A subsidy voucher that the indigent citizens would be able to use to buy a digital TV or any STB of their choice, so that they can continue to receive broadcasts.

    Yes! the above has been suggested right here on TC on another comment filled article previously… but you know what that say about repetition;

    Maybe this year someone will listen 🙂

  34. I think they left a word out – her record of (none) delivery in digital migration “speaks for itself”.

  35. Anakin StealthVader on

    Peering deeper and deeper into the abyss of the entire digital migration exercise I completely fail to understand why DTH was not considered to be the only option for a set-top-box. It’s only made available to border or difficult to reach areas – why? Why not use one type of decoder (satellite) and do away with the pesky terrestrial non-encrypted/encrypted/non-encrypted debacle? If it is a cost consideration from the beginning then it was very short-sighted:

    “DTH STBs are encrypted as per the SABS standards and have been
    distributed to qualifying households in the border areas which will not
    receive DTT signals. Meanwhile, the DTT decoders are not encrypted as
    per the amendments to the Digital Migration Policy, according to USAASA” – ref. [ from itweb. co. za ; article id=153954 ]

    I also had a look at the USAASA website (which is riddled with spelling and grammar issues) and the requirements to qualify for a subsidy, in the downloadable pdf guide the following issues are just plain baffling:
    [ SAPO-Criterior-Pumphlet.pdf ] – noting how they spell ‘pamphlet’ and ‘criteria’:

    – Proof of residence
    – SABC TV licence
    – Proof of income or in case of no income a SAPS affidavit
    – etc. etc.

    It’s all red tape which can only serve to discourage the poor and disadvantaged from ever switching over to digital. The only requirement should be a valid South-African ID with a limit of one
    installation per household/family.

    Lastly the “DTH Gapfiller User Interface Specification (Government Subsidised STBs)” document was issued in Nov 2013 already, ie the satellite option was already on the table as DTH (Direct-to-home) on
    the following LNB frequencies:

    LNB LO low frequency: 9.75 GHz
    LNB High frequency: 10.6 GHz

    So from Nov 2013 until now in 2017 the digital migration process has just become a big embarrassing disaster with ever-more complicated arguments going back & forth about encryption (which DTH has by default) while viewers must wait & wait & wait for their STB’s. It’s a sick joke from the government and it’s associated entities such as the USAASA & SAPO.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0b0d095bf33b80837ff736bff54dc2ce9776ffe9856f616f3c2a35bcbe360e9a.jpg

  36. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    The focus right from the onset needed to be –

    >>making available the “digital dividend” bands of 700MHz and 800MHz for mobile broadband.

    …and not the broadcast players;

    Your OVHD friends messed up out of the blocks with going on the SES5 bird which hadn’t really worked out for TopTV –

    …all the while there’s been the option of working together with Sentech towards the relaunch of their Vivid platform as FreeVision which is on the same bird as Multichoice, so households would conveniently have just one dish installation –

    Well, predictably your friends ended up conceding that SES5 wasn’t a great option; and undoubtedly DTH on IS20 & IS36 would be the best workable solution; however, having hidden agendas like your friends have of thinking that it’s easy to just pull the wool over the public’s eyes, makes them also no different to the DTT gravy train chasers.

    The subsidy voucher if it is to be the option would thus have to allow the qualifying households to make their own choice whether to use it for a Multichoice STB or a FreeVision STB (I might be missing one more but I’m sure you’ll remind me)

  37. William Stucke on

    Eish! Anakin, you’ve missed the point entirely. Way back in 2005 it was suggested that we go the DTH route. That was thrown out instantly on the grounds that “THEY” control the satellites. The fact that transmission to 188 out of Sentech’s 189 main transmitters is relayed by satellite was dismissed as irrelevant.
    No, the REAL reason for the insistence on retaining DTT (while acknowledging that DTH will be used for at least 16% of SA’s population and is capable of covering 99.9% of the SA population and is already fully paid for) is to maintain Sentech as a SOE – and the 616 jobs that represents as per the March 2015 Annual Report – the latest available in January 2017.
    If we take Marcan’s figure of R11bn, that works out as ~R18m per employee if we retrench the lot except for the dozen needed to run the DTH platform – enough to keep them in the lap of luxury for the rest of their unnatural and extended lives.
    Why are we doing this DTT thing again?

  38. Anakin StealthVader on

    May I venture to suggest that if proper and conclusive agreements about encryption could have been reached much sooner, that it would have been more difficult for FTA satellite based services to enter the market. I agree that options should always be available (terrestrial or sat) but the entire migration should have been completed in 2015 already. We are now in 2017 and still fighting about encryption issues. Other FTA operators hence identified this and acted on it and started to roll out their own alternative services.

    Yes Sentech plays a vital role, but endless delays and infighting between operators, ICASA and relevant service providers has now clouded the waters so much that viewers are left stranded and hence look for other affordable FTA options – and many of the FTA options do not use digital terrestrial technology as satellite system is preferred.

    It’s unfortunate that the DTT migration process is taking so long but this is not the viewers’ fault – all they wanted was a
    smooth transition whether it was based on terrestrial tech or not. The window is closing fast for DTT and Faith & co doesn’t understand that technology evolves in cycles nor have they treated DTT with the necassary urgency it deserves. Now some STB’s for DTT have encryption features while others have not – it’s become a logistical & PR nightmare.

    Maybe it will be sorted and finished this year, without further delays, encrytion debates and cost escalations.

  39. Anakin StealthVader on

    I do not work for any OVHD company nor am I a contractor for anyone at any of their branches. I also have no need for any friends there as we have Dstv. I only mentioned their services/products as a viable cost-effective alternative to a terrestrial service that’s taking forever to materialize ie from a consumer’s point-of-view. If your budget was extremely limited which would you prefer for the long-term? A terrestrial DTT antenna or a dish? It’s an example, that’s all 🙂

  40. Greg Mahlknecht on

    While you make some good points, I question whether some are factually correct:

    >OVHD is an easier installation than DTT

    I’ve got a DVB-T2 dongle and have received transmission in a number of locations with it, with little or no effort – I just use the tiny little magnetic antenna that came with it, stick it to a place fairly high up and it worked. Compare this to a satellite system that can’t be installed/aligned by home users.

    >Conventional outdoor aerials have a higher tendency to attract lightning and hence the mast always need to be properly earthed/grounded

    Do you have any references for this? My satellite dish is grounded, as is my DSTV decoder. Do you have any figures of who needs an outdoor DTT antenna? I haven’t found a spot yet that requires an outdoor DTT antenna at all. Anecdotal evidence, but I’m in KZN at the edge of an area called “Valley of 1000 hills”, which you can imagine isn’t a great place for signals!

    >With a satellite system you can simply unplug it during a thunderstorm

    Isn’t this exactly the same for a DTT aerial? And what percentage of DTT installations need an outdoor antenna? OVHD would require 100% outdoor installations.

    You forgot one minus against OVHD: If we used industry standard DVB-T2 for DTT, consumers would not need STB’s to pick up service, it’s built in to new TVs. Going the satellite route has the effect of shifting the burden of cost to the taxpayer; one of the (few) things I like about DTT is that, if done right, the burden of cost for the consumer can be 100% eliminated over the long term.

  41. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    DTH you would think for our market is the logical and obvious choice but we don’t all share the same reasoning or motives in BDM.

    Sadly all this delay plays into the hands of Multichoice even though BDM has nothing to do with creating competition for them as is perceived by the culprits guilty of attempting to hijack this process for their own interest rather than putting the interests of the country first.

  42. Two more actually, OVHD and Starsat.
    Where can one obtain a Freevision decoder and at what price ?

    Gov, SABC, Sentech have not learned one little bit from the first public broadcaster digital TV Vivid platform. It was introduced in 1998 or 1999, and up to July 2013, when it was closed down a mere 50,000 decoders were sold. Decoders were hardly marketed, sold at a very few outlets, and remained expensive, R 1140 the lowest, AFAIK.
    Now it tries to force feed the nation with 5 or 6m free decoders for the poor, and it has become an even bigger disaster.
    DTT should just be scrapped altogether. We can either use a Dstv, Starsat or OVHD FTA sat receiver or get a decent internet connection and stream/download content.
    My gardener and his friend, the gardener of the neighbours are using OVHD. This is an area without a terrestrial TV signal. They probably could apply for a Freevision decoder at the local postoffice, but nobody knows about it, and they will probably not bother.

  43. While I’m not quite as cynical about the efficacy of the boxes, you’re exactly right about the reason for the issues. The DTT policy was flawed from the moment when local production was baked in.

    We’re living with the unintended consequences of a protectionist policy. If the DoC had stuck to their lane and issued regulations that specified the minimum standard for DVB-T (or a coupla years later DVB-T2) for the decoders, and then got out of the way, we could have turned off analogue years ago.

  44. Anakin StealthVader on

    “I’ve got a DVB-T2 dongle and have received transmission in a number of locations with it, with little or no effort”

    Ok yes, but then why on earth can the DTT migration not be completed in the cities? If the analogue transmissions are switched off from eg. the 1st of June 2017, who would then not be able to pick up a DTT signal?

    As for hills & valleys and isolated villages in disadvantaged areas would they be able to pick up a DTT signal with an indoor DTT antenna?

    With reference to earthing and grounding of satellite dishes installers never seem to bother with this and neither do they understand lightning protection for a dish. Hence my suggestion to unplug the system during a thunderstorm as a viable option.

    SpaceTV for eg. sells a range of lightning protection devices but can’t provide a proper diagram of exactly where all of it should be installed, hence one gets answers like “an accredited installer must do this” – but when you speak to dish installers you get blank stares all around – like lightning damage to the LNB’s switches & decoders doesn’t happen at all. Yet insurance companies get flooded with calls the next day after a severe thunderstorm with claims for blown tv’s, decoders, LNB’s etc. requiring … yes…”an accredited installer” again to come and fix the mess (great money-making opportunity for them).

    In Germany for eg. you are required by law to have an earth connection from the dish directly onto the earth-bar in the mains distribution box. Here no such requirement exists so dish installers only do the minimum and get away with it.

    As for conventional analogue outdoor aerial systems their installation point is normally higher than the roof of the house where they can attract a direct lightning strike if a lightning rod is not installed – and yes you can try to save your equipment but with the RF-IN still connected while the mains is unplugged means you can still incur significant damage from a direct strike on the aerial or mast.

    Having said that all lightning’s behaviour is unpredictable but somehow dish installations suffer far less from direct strikes. All the
    damage is usually caused from a strike nearby, eg.trees and telephone lines as the co-axial cables going all over the place pick up it’s EM field and blows the LNB’s, tv’s, decoders.
    By unplugging the dish system the induced spikes cannot find a proper return to earth (namely the mains earth) and hence the system is not damaged.

    With outdoor antennas on a mast the only way to really prevent lightning damage from a direct or nearby strike is to unplug the RF-IN connector during a thunderstorm.

    IE unplugging the LNB-IN and handshake or RF-OUT connectors on decoder will also work, but this is cumbersome and extremely annoying to do, so unplugging the system at the mains seems to be
    the only practical solution.

    I still have to earth our Dstv dish properly and experiment with the different lightning protection gadgets to check for signal loss etc. but I do know that the “accredited installers” can’t do this for us – just finding an outlet that sells 6mm earth cables with white pvc was a nightmare – fortunately I found a supplier close to us [Litecor] https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e3abd97baa4d59f518cdd2624179bd08606fecdacbd2383947517c29a33bf611.jpg

    So once again: ask the “accredited dish installers” to come and do this for you and you get the famous ‘huh?” answer or ‘why do you want to do that’.

  45. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >Ok yes, but then why on earth can the DTT migration not be completed in the cities

    Because the people running the show of idiots. That’s an easy one to answer 🙂

    >SpaceTV for eg. sells a range of lightning protection devices but can’t provide a proper diagram of exactly where all of it should be installed,

    Wow, amazing. For anyone that’s curious – it’s simple – the rule of thumb is that a lightning protector will stop any lightning strikes in a 45 degree cone downwards from the tip of the lightning protector.

    > you are required by law to have an earth connection from the dish directly onto the earth-bar in the mains distribution box

    In South Africa we have a similar law (my insurance guy warned me about it) – but it’s implemented on the decoder side, which is why DSTV power cables (should) have an additional green cable stuck on the side with a washer that gets attached to the LNB port. Come to think of it, why don’t they just bridge that internally?

    In the “old days” when everyone had an antenna on their roof, it was standard practice to put the lightning conductor sticking up a meter or so from there. At least that’s how it’s been on every house I’ve lived in. A big problem is that the conductors were stolen, or corrode at ground level over the decades, eventually causing a break, which negates their effectiveness. We used to use copper when it was cheap, but nowdays aluminum is used – it’s more hardy, cheaper, and not prone to theft.

    Check out clearline dot coza for lightning protection stuff, they seem to be the leaders in this field. I have their products on all my multiplugs that expensive equipment is plugged in to.

  46. Anakin StealthVader on

    I am fully aware of the 45deg angle ‘rule’ and the protection zone that is applicable, as I’m also very aware how they work, how they should be earthed [ < 5 Ohms ] etc.

    The lightning protection devices I referred to doesn't include lightning rods (or finials as they are sometimes referred to) – the gadgets I'm referring to gets connected on the LNB side and co-axial connectors.

    Specifically the problem is how many points should be guarded, ie the RF-IN / RF-OUT ports, RF extensions to a 2nd tv, whether the LNB protector shown in the attached pic can guard both the LNB & switch, main decoder & secondary decoder & all connected tv's [via RF-IN or AV-IN] all together.

    Every in-line device can influence the signal quality and that's where it gets very tricky: how many protection devices can be fitted into the system without adversely affecting the system's performance and yet still guard against close lightning strikes [ we have a Telkom pole nearby that seems to attract lightning every time there's a thunderstorm ]

    As for lightning rods we kept the mast with the attached finial on top but removed the VHF & UHF aerials – the mast is properly earthed, the idea being of at least trying to keep lightning away from the main house. [ emphasis on trying ]

    We just don't know what to do with Telkom's copper lines running all over the place and that's not under our control, the best one can do is to fit 3x prong gas arrestors on the line the center-pin being earthed. [ this works but now the line blows further back to Telkom's side whenever there's a severe thunderstorm ]

    Attached is the pic from SpaceTv, who themselves cannot tell me how many co-axial in-line arrestors I will need or whether they would sufficiently protect our Dstv system. [ All our mains-plugs going to electronic equipment already have protector plugs on them but MOV's can't act fast enough for lightning induced 8/20 uSecond spikes, they are used more for unexpected voltage surges in mS or longer https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b5b56b5d96b10088ab4e6b6ef0e5ecbd2851211eb1f0cfa28aa8d258db7b075d.jpg ]

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e3abd97baa4d59f518cdd2624179bd08606fecdacbd2383947517c29a33bf611.jpg

  47. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day on

    You just have to look at the idiot in charge to know it was not going to succeed.

  48. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    StaSat is still only on SES5 and most dishes out there would be facing IS20…

    There’s no issue with making FreeVision STBs available through the same retail outlets as the others;

    Sentech will always be B2B and that’s why MyWireless broadband also failed so the B2C products & services would need outsourcing.

    DTH is ideal as an option however there has been a significant investment already made into DTT and there a definite opportunities on the horizon with an upgrade to the infrastructure to support T2 Lite for broadcast to mobile in HD.

  49. Hmm, all the comments of ASV, Anakin Stealth Vader deleted. By himself ? They contained all kind of interesting details about technical solutions to lightning damages to satellite dishes and aerials. And his conclusion that we can easily scrap DTT altogether and all make use of sat TV was correct.

    But the delay and cost escalations were of course not because of technical issues.It was not about ISDB-T or DVB-T2 as standard, encryption or not.
    At the core of the failure lies Gov’s fundamentally wrong idea to subsidise 5 or 6m STBs for the poor households, and to totally control the local production, distribution and installation of these decoders. And to also want to control import of STBs and put considerable import duties on them.
    Already in 2008 we saw page size newspaper adverts that promised us Digital Dzonga, digital quality TV in most parts of the country before the WC Football 2010. All kinds of delays popped up, mostly the useless distraction by the Japanese and Brazilian to have us switch to a Brazilian version of the Japanese ISDB-T standard. Unnecessarily complicated, and by far not as universally used as the DVB-T standard.

    When it was finally and correctly decided in Jan 2011 to adopt the DVB-T2 standard, the DTT still could have become quite successful, when Gov had left the issue of encryption to the broadcasters and the whole production and distribution of the decoders to the private sector. And scrapped that subsidy idea.

    eTV might have easily have come up up with his own DVB T2 decoder including encryption, instead of their OVHD satellite platform. Their 18 OVHD TV channels could easily have fitted on two UHF frequencies as DVB-T2 can carry up to 16 SD channels per frequency. The SABC might have gone for an unencrypted signal, and we could be choosing out of a myriad of generic STBs for older TVs, while most newer flatscreens would be sold with a built in DVB-T2 decoder. Dstv ‘s Go TV would without doubt brought out its own decoder with encryption.
    Sentech could easily have finished kitting out all their towers with DVB-T2 by end of 2012. And the analogue signal could have been switched of by end of 2013, 18 months before the ITU June 2015 deadline.
    As the case about encryption and all kind of other rubbish is still dragging on, we better scrap DTT altogether.

    It is the politicians, mostly ANC but also to a lesser degree the opposition that allowed this to happen. Marian Shinn always supported this mad subsidy plan.

  50. William Stucke on

    > DVB-T2 can carry up to 16 SD channels per frequency.
    20 SD channels, actually. It all depends on the configuration. When the Digital to Digital migration happens – who knows when, but essential in order to be able to actually use the Digital Dividend, which was the whole purpose of the exercise – the capacity of each multiplex will be slightly reduced, to say 19 SD channels each. This is because RSA will be building the largest SFNs, one or two per province, in the world. Yes, we do lead in quite a lot of technology. And sometimes we bite off more that we can chew!

  51. William Stucke on

    Yes. Very odd that. Anakin obviously can’t take the heat. Best to stay out of the kitchen, then 😉

  52. Yeah, for sure, forgot to mention the enormous advantage of setting these VHF and UHF frequencies free for better purposes, like rural broadband in the 700 and 800 mHz.

  53. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>At the core of the failure lies Gov’s fundamentally wrong idea to
    subsidise 5 or 6m STBs for the poor households, and to totally control
    the local production, distribution and installation of these decoders.
    And to also want to control import of STBs and put considerable import
    duties on them.

    Let’s just keep repeating this…

    >>At the core of the failure lies Gov’s fundamentally wrong idea to
    subsidise 5 or 6m STBs for the poor households, and to totally control
    the local production, distribution and installation of these decoders.
    And to also want to control import of STBs and put considerable import
    duties on them.

    Again…

    >>At the core of the failure lies Gov’s fundamentally wrong idea to
    subsidise 5 or 6m STBs for the poor households, and to totally control
    the local production, distribution and installation of these decoders.
    And to also want to control import of STBs and put considerable import
    duties on them.

  54. Andrew Fraser on

    I’m not even that concerned about the subsidisation to be honest. The issue is really the local production.. Subsidisation of 5 million R200 STBs would only cost the fiscus around R1 Billion, plus the required extras, maybe double that. That is actually affordable.

    The problem comes in when the locally produced devices cost 7 or 8 times as much.

  55. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Well, then… the subsidy voucher, giving choice to the qualifying households, would be the most ideal option for this insignificant expenditure on such a priority concern since we don’t have anything else that would warrant the fiscus spend.

  56. Remember that it could be funded from the USAASA levies, and for freeing up 700/800MHz it is a small price to pay.