Ongoing regulatory delays mean it is unlikely that South Africans will be able to watch the 2010 soccer World Cup on their mobile phones.
Broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), says it intends to complete the necessary licensing process by June 2010, the same month as the World Cup kick-off.
But it concedes that the “prospective licensees may not be ready [to begin broadcasting]at that particular time”. Broadcasters and telecommunications operators must first seed the market with cellular handsets capable of receiving mobile broadcast signals.
Icasa must issue the licences as part of SA’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting. Mobile TV uses a digital video broadcasting technology known as DVB-H, which formats the signal specially for the small screens found on cellphones.
Broadcaster MultiChoice, which has built a test DVB-H broadcast network, has expressed frustration at the ongoing delays.
“There are no licences issued for mobile broadcasting yet but the authority is working on finalising the framework for licensing these services,” says Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka.
“In terms of the regulation-making process, two multiplexes have been reserved for mobile broadcasting,” he says. “This is based on the national frequency plan.”
Maleka says Icasa must still determine how many licences will be issued but will decide based on the number of responses it receives to an invitation to apply for them.
Meloy Horn, head of investor relations at MultiChoice parent Naspers, says she can’t provide any timeframes for the launch of DVB-H services. “We are at the mercy of the regulator, which still has to license the service.”
MultiChoice has created a separate division and brand, DStv Mobile, for its mobile broadcasting interests. It has already launched commercial services in a number of African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria, where it hasn’t been held back by licensing delays. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral