Government will not meet its self-imposed deadline of April 2012 to switch on digital terrestrial television, says communications minister Dina Pule, who now expects services will be only be launched commercially in the third quarter of the year.
Pule was speaking at her first media briefing since being appointed by President Jacob Zuma to the post late last year, replacing Roy Padayachie in the key portfolio.
Pule says the department and ministry have been hard at work for the past three months trying to ensure the April deadline is met, but this now appears impossible given how much must still be done before services can be launched.
The department of communications must still publish a set-top box manufacturing policy for the decoders it will subsidise for poor households, after which a tender will be issued. The SA Bureau of Standards must also finalise the specification for the set-top boxes, and this is only expected next month. Manufacturers can’t begin building decoders until these processes are finalised.
“Indications are we can only launch in the third quarter of the year,” Pule says.
She warns the delay could affect the December 2013 deadline for switching off analogue broadcasters, which will be of great concern to telecommunications operators that are desperate to get access to the spectrum that will be freed up through the process. Mobile operators want access to the so-called “digital dividend bands” below 900MHz to provide next-generation broadband services.
Pule says the department will try its best to meet the original deadline for the switch-off of analogue services, but says it’s unlikely it will be met. “However, we will work with industry so even if the date is affected, it doesn’t go way beyond the expected date,” she says. “We want to ensure we do our best, but that can only happen if we work together with the [information and communications technology] industry.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
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