Interested broadcasters have been given three weeks by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to apply for licences to provide digital mobile television services to SA consumers.
However, the move is unlikely to come in time for broadcasters to provide digital mobile coverage of the 2010 soccer World Cup on a commercial basis.
Icasa says it will license broadcasterss in one multiplex — a chunk of radio frequency spectrum used for digital terrestrial broadcasting — in the current financial year, which ends in March 2011. This will be done in the form of an auction.
Licences in a second multiplex will only be issued once Icasa has decided on the “opening of the pay-TV market to new entities and that will be a separate process”.
To ensure “competition and diversity”, applicants for licences in the first multiplex will not be allowed to hold more than 60% of the frequency in the multiplex, and not less than 20%, Icasa says.
Last week, the regulatory authority told TechCentral that it intended completing the necessary licensing processes by June 2010, the same month as the World Cup kick-off.
The authority conceded that the “prospective licenses may not be ready [to begin broadcasting]at that particular time”. Broadcasters and telecommunications operators must first seed the market with the cellular handsets capable of receiving mobile broadcast signals.
Broadcaster MultiChoice, which has been operating a test mobile TV network for several years already, has expressed frustration at the delays.
Applications for the licences must be sent to Icasa by no later than 4pm on 7 May. — Staff reporter, TechCentral