Encryption not the way to tackle DStv: DOC - TechCentral

Encryption not the way to tackle DStv: DOC


Government should make better use of regulatory tools and legislation to foster a more competitive environment in South Africa’s pay-television industry rather than requiring that conditional access technology be included in state-subsidised set-top boxes.

That’s the view of Solly Mokoetle, the head of the digital migration project at the department of communications (DOC).

“The issue of control access is that of pay-TV operators,” says Mokoetle.

Government’s role in the digital migration process, he says, is to ensure that it happens as fast as possible so that the “digital dividend” spectrum can be released to telecommunications operators for the roll-out of broadband.

South Africa’s digital migration project has ground to a halt as broadcasters MultiChoice and the SABC on one side and e.tv on the other battle each other over whether the set-top boxes government intends subsidising for 5m poorer households contain an access control system based on encryption.

E.tv and many black-owned prospective set-top manufacturers are in favour of encryption. The broadcaster says it’s needed to ensure that free-to-air players can get access to the latest content to compete more effectively with MultiChoice’s dominant DStv platform; MultiChoice argues it’s the wrong choice for South Africa and would amount to unfair competition as it would allow pay-TV players an easier entry into the market.

Earlier this month, government abandoned its commitment to access control, saying broadcasters could use encryption but that it would not be a standard feature of the subsidised boxes.

Mokoetle tells TechCentral that the main priorities for digital migration are ensuring that concerns with interference on South Africa’s border areas are dealt with; expediting the manufacture of set-top boxes; ensuring that the Post Office is able to deliver boxes timeously; making certain that installers are trained to install antennae and boxes; and making sure that those who have the capacity to manufacture set-top boxes are appointed.

Mokoetle says the policy agreed to by cabinet in December 2013 — under former communications minister Yunus Carrim — was not the final policy.

That policy was put out for comment for 30 days and the comments received were meant to be taken into consideration in drawing up a policy to be sent to cabinet for approval, says Mokoetle.

The amended policy was gazetted last Wednesday by new communications minister Faith Muthambi and is final, says Mokoetle.

He says government has erred by focusing on the issue of set-top boxes for so long. “We are going to miss the 17 June deadline.”

In terms of that deadline, South Africa agreed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that it would terminate analogue TV broadcasts by that date. After 17 June, the ITU will no longer protect South Africa from radio frequency spectrum interference from neighbouring countries.

“We are trying to understand the implications of the ITU directives. Practically, we have established that the spectrum plan on analogue will no longer be protected — it will be wiped out. If you have any services running on that frequency you may interfere with your neighbours’ signal or vice versa,” Mokoetle says.

“South Africa cannot do anything about this but they [our neighbours]will have recourse with the ITU. However, the truth of the matter is that many of those countries themselves are not ready to move on digital migration. The problem is not from government, but will come from mobile operators wanting to launch LTE broadband services. We have established that one of the mobile operators in Lesotho will affect our transmitter network.”

Mokoetle was appointed as chief operating officer of the SABC in 2001 and has been involved in the digital migration process since 2004.

He was initially behind the SABC’s support of an encryption system (to collect licence fees), but this was later slapped down.

Mokoetle was appointed chief content operator of Telkom Media in 2007 and CEO of SABC in 2010. Since then, he has worked within the digital migration environment across Africa, having been involved in projects in Ghana, Uganda and Lesotho.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media


  1. Software conditional access is affordable at $1.50 – $2.00 per government sponsored box. The benefits are huge: high quality premium content for all; SABC channels will be able to show some of the latest movies; SABC can enter into agreements with premium content owners for their own TV channels – like Home Channel, Discovery Channel, etc.
    Digital TV can accommodate many more channels than analogue TV.
    Government reckons that New TV Channels could have their own set top boxes with their own conditional access – How many set top boxes do we want in the system? 1 for SABC, a second for New Channel1, a third box for New Channel2, a fourth box for New Channel3, etc etc. Too many boxes? There should be one box for all?

  2. Hansom Stanford on

    Indeed, see Nigeria strategy as published.

    “Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has signed a National
    Common STB System agreement with Inview Technologies.

    Director General NBC, Emeka Mba, stated that the signing was a
    culmination of many months of consultation and a crucial step towards the DSO
    in Nigeria. Adding that the Commission through this agreement hopes to create
    the biggest TV platform in Nigeria and around the African continent. Mba further
    stressed that the agreement signing was paramount to moving closer towards the
    DSO and help give birth to the national set top box platform that would enable
    commonality for all digital services in the country.

    Inview Technologies will be in charge of the Conditional Access System
    (CAS), Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), the Annual Digital Content Access Fee
    (DCAF) and the Value added services.”

  3. > Software conditional access is affordable at $1.50 – $2.00 per government sponsored box.
    Enough already with the bald assertions, Antonio. It’s time to show evidence. Where do these numbers come from? What CAS? Proof, please.
    Despite what Goebbels claimed, bald repetition doesn’t make something true. It’s just boring.

  4. Link. Quotation. Cite sources. Don’t just make bald assertions and rehash hearsay.

    Dunno about you, but I wouldn’t exactly consider “official Dep of Comms Tenders” in any way authoritative 😉

  5. Tender answer documents are not published. Gov asked for info form CA companies. Gov requested the info. Sentech received several replies as well. These documents were never published on the internet.

  6. Nonsense. Gov, Sentech, SABC and other parties made enquiries on CA. If you for one moment think that not one of these are doing their homework you are living in lala land.

  7. Dear Antonio.
    Let’s try and avoid the ad hominem attacks, shall we?
    I am not expressing an opinion about whether the DoC, Sentech, SABC, etc. have done their homework or not. I’m asking what evidence do _YOU_ have that you can quote to us, here.
    If you can’t, then just admit it, please.
    Calling on authority figures is something done in religion, not science, or rational debate 😉

  8. These documents have not been published on the Internet. Said costings were made by request from, inter alia, Gov, Sentech, SABC, community TV channels and more. Fact remains, these costings were requested and received by the named parties. This is not hearsay. All these parties are researching CA costing – even now.

  9. Perhaps you need to look up the definition of hearsay. I’d start with Google, if I was you, and a few dictionaries, especially the legal ones.

    Here, let me help you out:

    1. Unverified information heard or received from another; rumor.

    2. Law: Evidence that is not within the personal knowledge of a witness, such as testimony regarding statements made by someone other than the witness, and that therefore may be inadmissible to establish the truth of a particular contention because the accuracy of the evidence cannot be verified through cross-examination.

    So, unless you can point us to some publicly available source that supports your contention that a CAS system costs 1/10th of what Greg gave verifiable evidence for, you’re blowing smoke, my friend.

  10. You know and understand that answers to tenders and special requests for information are not public documents? Do you understand that most correspondence and quotes never ever make it to the Internet? Do you understand that most of these high level cost analysis are made “confidential”?
    Goverment, SABC, Sentech, etc do have copies of several quotes form different CA suppliers. They are doing their homework.

  11. You are correct – but unfortunately Mr Motsoeneng’s SABC does not wish to compete with MultiChoice by showing such premium content.

    The fact that interoperability was thrown out of the STB specifications means that there will be a multiplicity of boxes on the market – so competition in the television arena will be around a) satellite vs. terrestrial reception and b) content bouquets linked to specific STBs.

  12. Nigeria is on the right track – Have one box for all digital services on Sentech Digital Terrestrial. People can not afford or use two, three oer even more set top boxes. It is a mess to use more than one set top box. TV’s do not have enough ports to handle three to five different boxes.

    Nigeria is forward thinking = “Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission has signed an agreement with Inview Technologies for the provision of a National Common Set-Top-Box system. Inview, in collaboration with a consortium of Nigerian broadcasters, will make available software for the provision of key services.”

    Nigeria is doing the best for all community TV channels, private channels as well as paving the way for new services. This is clever and economical.

  13. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>so competition in the television arena will be around a) satellite vs. terrestrial reception

    This was always going to be the case and is largely influenced by consumer preferences as well;

    …so if I don’t want a dish on my building for aesthetic reasons, DTT with an indoor aerial will be the option I go with.

    SENTECH on their Freevision distribution platform offers one cost to broadcast via DTH, DTT, DTT Lite (Mobile) & IP so that already assists in reducing the costs to broadcasters.

    >>and b) content bouquets linked to specific STBs.

    This would obviously only affect pay-TV and those who intend to offer “Premium” content that would necessitate having CA; because all FTA signals can still be received on all digital TV sets that support DVB-T2.

    There’s nothing preventing players with such commercial interests from working together and having a common STB system available in the market that can also utilize SENTECH’s Freevision platform.

    Government has no mandate to advance the commercial interests of a handful of broadcasters and this subsidy plan is taking away from the real priorities that need to be addressed by government.

  14. Greg Mahlknecht on

    > There should be one box for all?

    Couldn’t agree more. They have all expressed their willingness to share a government-issued box, so that’s 90% of the problem gone – someone just needs to bring out a common CA box and BAM. Done.

    I’d like to hear the “better use of regulatory tools and legislation ” plan – I assume that the broadcasters will have to pay for access to the DTT system; they could waiver this for new entrants to Pay TV and that could subsidize the CA box roll-out. A far more elegant solution, and keeps the tenderpreneur’s fingers out the pies.

  15. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Surely there’s another company somewhere in the world that makes software CA boxes, and has prices on the internet? What CA system did they use? I’ll take it from there, it’s dead easy to find prices of cheap Chinese products.

  16. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >You are correct – but unfortunately Mr Motsoeneng’s SABC does not wish to compete with MultiChoice by showing such premium content.

    SABC made R20mil -ish profit last year. They need BILLIONS of rands to compete with DSTV’s content. They couldn’t provide premium content even with free CA, unless they go to the treasury, get the taxpayer to pay a few billion so they can afford premium content… which they sell to the citizens. Antonio is dreaming. Oh, and he sells set top boxes for a living. Bear that in mind when you read his comments.

    > specifications means that there will be a multiplicity of boxes on the market

    I don’t agree with this… there is precedent with OpenView HD on satellite, they just need to roll that out for DTT. They have everything in place – manufacturing, backoffice systems, billing, distribution… they just need a new STB.

    In fact, if they were clever, they’d go the route of what Dreambox did – have it handle both satellite AND terrestrial signals in a single decoder. Really capitalise on all the investment they made to get their systems to where they are today.

  17. Andrew Fraser on

    But you don’t have the information. Thus it is hearsay.

    I think the $1.50 per box price being bandied about is likely the licence fee that is payable for the encryption system, not the costs of implementing hardware capable of using it. But without the “secret” tender documents we’ll never know.

  18. The Tender and RFI documents are in the hands of the people requesting it. Ask anyone within the process. Some documents are privileged information between receiver and provider. Just ask anyone involved – like community TV stations for instance.

  19. Greg – talk to community TV channels. They must migrate as well. Talk to eTV – they did their homework for OpenViewHD. You will never see these confidential documents between CTV and eTV on the Internet. But it is easy for you to check. Talk to the right people – some are on a visit in SA since last week.

  20. Learn from Nigeria, Namibia, Ghana and soon Zimbabwe. They all decided on Conditional Access. Where governments back CA you find improvement in people paying TV licences, more adverts, etc. etc etc

  21. Greg Mahlknecht on

    I’m not asking for confidential documents. I’m asking for the name of a cheap software CA system. If you don’t know, just say so. Unless they’re using secret CA tech from a secret company that only sells their product to people who manage to contact their secret marketing team?

    But for right now, in the absence of all other evidence, we have to assume you regurgitated the “$1.50” cost you saw on another thread and made up the “it’s secret, I can’t tell you” back story to justify your point of view.

  22. Greg Mahlknecht on

    > more adverts

    Yes, so at an absolute best case scenario, you’re saying the taxpayer should subsidize the content to the tune of billions until such time the ad spend can cover it, at which point … what? There’s no way to get that money back in to the hands of the taxpayers on a FTA channel.

  23. Conditional Access is like state hospitals and roads. Governments should try to give the best hospitals, best roads and best television for all.

  24. Why don;t we see you at Gov and ICASA hearings where these things are discussed?

  25. Greg Mahlknecht on

    No… no it’s really not. You can’t seriously be comparing hospitals and essential infrastructure to the latest series and other entertainment?

    If anything, using your analogy, CA is like eTolls.

    I know you’re in the broadcast game, I think you’re a bit close to the issue to see its place in the world. “Premium Content” really isn’t life-or-death stuff.

    I’m happy for a government to pay for roads and hospitals. I’m not happy for them to pay for Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey.

  26. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Oh – so that figure wasn’t in the document you mentioned – was it in the hearings? If so, it’s not secret, tell us what it was please.

    I doesn’t seem I need to waste my time on going to the hearings – clearly you have obtained absolutely no useful information from them!

  27. Andrew Fraser on

    You don’t understand the process of substantiation. I don’t need to prove your point, or even to disprove it – that’s your responsibility. You made a claim, you were challenged on it, and now you seem unable to provide any substantiation to the claim. Until you do so, we can assume that the claim is at best unsubstantiated and at worst mistaken, false or even fraudulent.

  28. Relax. Wait and see. Zimbabwe is also going for Conditional Access. Government has called for a Review. Just sit back relax. Gov is dealing with several CA vendors right now. Nagra was part of the previous Tender. Gov has all the pricing in their hands.

  29. Greg – please explain to poor people why they can not watch nice premium content. Obviously you are rich with a top DSTV subscription. You do not care for the poor. You do not even want them to watch decent TV?

  30. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Sure, I have no problem telling them that SABC or other FTA can’t afford premium content, and probably won’t be able to in the future as globally TV advertising spend is declining.

    This has nothing to do with CA, and everything to do with the flawed business model you keep pushing. If there really was enough money in advertising to purchase top premium content, the premium content providers could easily afford to subsidize the CA STB.

    Furthermore I would have absolutely no problem telling any person that they can’t see Game of Thrones because there are more important things to spend taxpayer money on – like hospitals, roads, power stations and healthcare. These are the harsh realities of life. Premium content doesn’t improve peoples lives in any meaningful way.

  31. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Please DO HOLD YOUR BREATH waiting for a change to the policy… It will be happening when Zimbabwe changes its name back to Rhodesia.

  32. So wrong Vusi. Watch the news. Zimbabwe signed for Conditional Access to improve the TV industries in Zim. Why can Zim, Ghana, Namibia, etc see the light and you can not?

  33. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    There’s also Botswana doing their own thing which is what they believe is best for them; by the way…

    …this is SA and there’s a reason why you wait for a policy to be gazetted; and not begin to count the chickens from the one and only basket you have your eggs in before they’ve hatched.

    Do you recall us touching on this in our past discussion threads right here on TC…??? The government has taken the best decision to move our country forward with this long overdue process and now we can move onto spectrum allocation.

    What you should be doing is getting to work on having an alliance of those who want CA formed; and making sure you raise the capital for it as well as for paying for the “Premium” content.

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