Set-top box dream abandoned as SA gets real about digital migration - TechCentral

Set-top box dream abandoned as SA gets real about digital migration

Lumko Mtimde

Government’s underserviced-area agency Usaasa will complete the distribution of all manufactured set-top boxes, satellite dishes and aerials but will not be involved in procuring any further devices for South Africa’s digital television migration project.

The move comes as government tries to speed up digital migration, which is years behind schedule. But the decision leaves its plan to try to foster a local electronics manufacturing industry on the back of the project in serious doubt.

In a statement at the weekend, Usaasa said it has spent R938-million to date on the project. It welcomed the announcement last week by communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane that it will no longer procure set-top boxes, with government instead offering vouchers to indigent households to buy devices of their choosing from retailers.

Usaasa had been charged with the development of the criteria and means test to determine qualifying households, managing the disbursement of subsidy funds, appointing, managing and monitoring set-top box manufacturers, antennae and satellite dish makers, and installation companies.

The process has mired in controversy for years, with evidence emerging of impropriety in the process.

Usaasa said at the weekend that through the previous model, now abandoned, Usaasa had a panel of 27 manufacturers. Out of the 27 manufacturers, six were selected for the first phase of procurement of set-top boxes (for both terrestrial and satellite distribution), antennae and dishes.

Agency CEO Lumko Mtimde said Usaasa had an allocation of R 2.3-billion for a million terrestrial boxes, 500 000 satellite boxes, a million antennae and 500 000 satellite dishes. Six companies were appointed: CZ Electronics (for terrestrial boxes), Leratadima (for terrestrial boxes), BUA Africa (for satellite boxes), QEC (for antennas) and Ellies Industries (for satellite dishes). Several installation companies were also appointed.

Phase one

During phase one of the project, Usaasa placed an order for 1.5 million set-top boxes, of which 880 128 have been delivered to the Post Office to date. Nearly half a million have been installed in homes and the remainder are still sitting in Post Office warehouses, with a few in transit, through installers, to beneficiaries.

Of those ordered, 846 000 terrestrial boxes were completed and 486 077 have been distributed and installed to qualifying households. About 43 000 satellite boxes were completed and 30 000 have been distributed and installed to qualifying households. A million antennae and 500 000 satellite dishes were completed, Usaasa said.
About 391 000 terrestrial boxes and related accessories remain warehoused. Satellite boxes and related accessories are also warehoused.

“Outstanding delivery is 143 000 terrestrial set-top boxes from Leratadima and 457 000 satellite boxes. Usaasa to date has spent R603 480 524.28 on the procurement of 880 128 set-top boxes. An amount of R 334 941 543 has been spent on antennae and satellite dishes. This bring the total amount spent on set-top boxes and associated accessories to R938 422 067.28.”

Usaasa and the Post Office will “continue unhindered with the implementation of the remaining set-top boxes using the old model”, the agency said.

“The remaining set-top boxes that are warehoused at the Post Office will be distributed and installed until the stock is depleted, upon which time there will be no new orders from Usaasa. Bulk installations are currently being rolled out in the Free State, Northern Cape and North West.”

The department of communications is expected to announce more details about the planned voucher scheme on Friday.  — © 2018 NewsCentral Media

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