Industry lobby group the South African Communications Forum (SACF) has warned that government’s current amended broadcasting digital migration policy, released in March, will set back the local electronics manufacturing industry and add further delays to the digital terrestrial television migration process.
The forum says the amended policy is “confusing and contradictory” and “in conflict with the set-top box standard as set out in Sans 862”. The Sans 862 standard was developed by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to set out the specifications of set-top boxes to be used in South Africa’s digital TV project.
Developing a new standard could take up to 18 months.
The SACF supports the use of the encryption system in the set-top boxes, which has now been abandoned in government’s final broadcasting migration policy.
Among the contradictions the SACF mentions is that the policy calls for a “robust control system”, yet further states that the control system “will be non-mandatory” and will “not have capabilities to encrypt broadcast signals for the subsidised set-top boxes”.
The forum wants clarity from government on this position. It says that “these different policy pronouncements are contradictory, ambiguous, will not meet government’s objectives in implementing digital migration and will devastate our electronics manufacturing industry”.
It says, too, that the use of a “Mux verification” security feature is “not regarded as set-top box control”. Rather, it is “reception restriction”.
The SABS had decided against the use of Mux verification as it is not stringent enough and can be easily hacked and have new software installed, the forum says. The set-top boxes would be easy to reuse outside the borders of South Africa, according to the SACF.
Speaking to TechCentral at a South African Digital Broadcasting Association conference on Friday, communications minister Faith Muthambi said Sans 862 will not have to be changed.
Former ministerial advisor Roy Kruger told TechCentral recently that the current standard calls for all set-top boxes to have a control system, “not the verification or security system that the minister has called for”, which effectively means “the standard will have to be changed if they want to implement the new policy”.
The acting director-general for the department of communications Norman Munzhelele says the SACF had not raised its concerns with the department since the release of the policy. He says government’s response will follow. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media