SA will switch on digital terrestrial television services “around” September, starting a period of “dual illumination” of both analogue and digital signals, communications minister Dina Pule said in a statement on Thursday.
Pule said Sentech, the state-owned company charged with deploying the broadcasting network using the second generation of the European standard for digital television, has rolled out infrastructure to cover 61% of the country’s population.
By the end of March 2012, 96% of Gauteng’s population had been covered by digital signals. Coverage in other provinces are 92% for North West, 73% for the Western Cape, 33% for Mpumalanga, 31% for the Eastern Cape, 46% for the Free State, 30% for the Northern Cape, 45% for KwaZulu-Natal and 59% for Limpopo.
Once Sentech switches off analogue television broadcasts — expected by no later than mid-2015 to meet an International Telecommunication Union deadline — it will free up a valuable chunk of radio frequency spectrum that can be assigned to telecommunications operators that are champing at the bit to use the spectrum to roll out next-generation wireless broadband services using long-term evolution technology.
Pule said the migration to digital will also bring “better quality picture and sound to consumers” and will allow for more channels. “The migration to digital broadcasting will bring better quality picture and sound to the consumers,” she said. “The migration process is also expected to create and sustain jobs in the electronics manufacturing industry, the distribution, installation and maintenance of decoders and in local content development.”
SA is running well behind in moving to digital broadcasting, having already missed a number of self-imposed deadlines. The telecoms industry, in particular, will be hoping the September target is met. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media