SA looks likely to ditch its 2006 decision to adopt Europe’s digital video broadcasting terrestrial (DVB-T) standard for digital terrestrial television.
That’s the word from communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala, who* Communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala says that although SA has not decided on a future digital broadcasting standard, experts have advised the department that DVB-T has proved technically “problematic” and they say it would therefore make more sense to deploy its successor standard, DVB-T2, or some other standard.
These developments come four years after SA and the other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made a commitment to migrate from analogue to digital television using the original DVB-T standard.
The region will now probably adopt either Japan’s integrated digital service broadcasting terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard, which most industry players are not in favour of, or it will choose DVB-T2.
The department of communications stunned the broadcasting industry in April when it called a symposium in Midrand to reopen discussions about which digital broadcasting standard is most appropriate for the country.
This led to widespread speculation among industry players that government was bowing to pressure from Brazil to implement ISDB-T.
Brazil has deployed a version of ISDB-T and is keen for more countries to adopt the technology to help bring down the cost of digital set-top boxes and broadcast transmission equipment.
However, Mohlala has steadfastly denied that the SA government has reached any agreement with the Brazilians.
State-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech has already invested tens of millions of rand in DVB-T infrastructure, though government says that investment will not go to waste if SA changes digital standards as it most of it can be used with other standards, including ISDB-T and DVB-T2.
Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda warned earlier this week that SA’s planned full migration to digital television was likely to be pushed back by several months due to a recent decision by SADC ministers to reopen discussions about which standard the region should adopt.
According to Mohlala, a team of technical experts has now been convened by SADC and must present a recommendations document to the SADC ministers by the end of July. Only then will the country get clarity on which standard it will adopt.
Mohlala says the original DVB-T standard has proved “problematic” and it is therefore likely that it will be abandoned*.
However, she insists government does not favour either DVB-T2 or ISDB-T any standard. “We will be informed by the SADC study,” she says. “We want an objective, well informed and properly assessed outcome that is in line with the developmental needs of the country.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
* Correction and amplification: Mohlala has reiterated to TechCentral that her department has made no decision on which digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard to adopt. The first paragraph above is TechCentral’s interpretation, based on its discussion with Mohlala, of what is likely to happen. We have struck through the sections of the article where we agree we have misinterpreted her. On review, the relevant section of the conversation was ambiguous and this led to the misinterpretation. The errors are regretted.