South Africa will soon have a new free-to-air terrestrial television service offering five free channels to viewers, including a dedicated 24-hour sports channel.
Kwese Free TV, which is 20% own by Econet Group (the parent of Liquid Telecom), has become the first free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster to be licensed since e.tv received its licence 21 years ago.
Communications regulator Icasa named Kwese Free TV as the successful applicant of the licence at a press conference in Pretoria on Monday. Five entities had been vying for the licence, which includes a chunk (55%) of radio frequency spectrum in what is called digital broadcasting “Mux 3”.
Other shareholders in Kwese Free TV include Royal Bafokeng Metix (part of Royal Bafokeng Holdings), which has a 45% stake, and Moss Mashishi’s Mosong Capital, which has a 35% stake. South Africa’s legal framework prevents Econet, a foreign company, from owning more than 20% of the new entity.
The Kwese Free TV launch is subject to the migration of analogue to digital television in South Africa. Icasa has given Kwese 24 months to launch the service, but the company said it plans to go live as soon as possible, and will probably start with a high-definition sports channel. It also plans to offer four standard-definition channels, including ones offering a mix of entertainment.
The spectrum awarded to Kwese has a total capacity of 37Mbit/s. This can be used to offer up to 11 SD channels and two HD channels, according to Icasa.
Zolile Ntukwana, group executive for regulatory affairs for Econet, told TechCentral in an interview after the Icasa press conference that the Kwese Sports free-to-air channel is already available in as many as 18 countries in Africa. Sports the company hopes to offer South African viewers include the next Fifa World Cup, English Premier League matches and the Olympic Games.
Ntukwana said Kwese Free TV has a strong management pool it can draw from as it gears up to launch. — © 2019 NewsCentral Media