South Africa gears for digital TV switch
4 October 2012
Communications Minister Dina Pule launched the demonstration of South Africa's digital terrestrial televison (DTT) technology in the Northern Cape on Wednesday, ahead of the December launch of the country's migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
South Africa's commercial DTT launch will take place in December, marking the beginning of a year-long "dual illumination" period, during which both analogue and digital TV signals will be available.
After the December 2013 deadline, South Africans who still have analogue TVs will need special set-top boxes - converters of digital to analogue signals - in order to receive images on their TVs.
Set-top box subsidies for the poorest
The government will provide a 70% subsidy towards the cost of the set-top boxes to the 5-million poorest TV-owning households. Those who fell above a certain income band will be expected to buy their set-top boxes at full cost.
The set-top boxes will be distributed through the country's post offices, and through mobile post offices in under-served areas.
While the deadline for South Africa's analogue switch-off had originally been planned for November 2011, the new deadline is well in line with the push by UN agency the International Telecommunication Union to have analogue signals worldwide switched off by 2015.
"In keeping with our mandate, we will ensure universal service and access by providing broadcasting services through the digital migration process that promises to enhance diversity and access, especially for the previously marginalised," Pule said at Wednesday's launch of a countrywide awareness campaign.
"All South Africans will benefit from and be able to afford to move from analogue to digital television in line with world standards," Pule told her audience in Motswedimosa outside Kimberley.
Up to 24 000 new jobs
Apart from providing better picture quality, enhanced clarity, and more channels and content, up to 24 000 new jobs would be created through the migration process, Pule said.
"Digital migration creates an opportunity for South Africa to build a globally competitive export sector that will create jobs and grow the economy. The manufacture of set-top-boxes has the ability to unlock the potential of the electronic hardware manufacturing sector and stimulate job creation."
Pule said an envisaged 800 jobs would be created in the manufacturing industry, while 20 000 young South Africans would be trained in the installation and maintenance of set-top boxes (STBs), ultimately creating up to 6 000 jobs.
Four thousand call centre operators would be employed to deal with queries relating to the STBs, while the South African Post Office would have to employ an additional 500 staff to help with STB distribution.
"The launch of digital television will also free up space for the introduction of more television channels, and the content industry has the ability to create more than 10 000 jobs," Pule added.
The Department of Communications expected to award contracts to STB manufacturers by the middle of October, with the first deliveries of STBs due to take place from the end of November, Pule said.
Broadcasters 'ready to roll'
South Africa will adopt the DVB-T2 digital television standard, which has the capacity to give viewers access to 14 channels using the same amount of spectrum.
DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial Second Generation) has a higher bit-rate than its predecessor, DVB-T, making it a more suitable for carrying high definition (HD) signals on a terrestrial television channel. DVB standards are maintained by the DVB Project, an international industry consortium with around 250 members.
Pule said that state signal distributor Sentech had currently achieved digital terrestrial televison (DTT) network coverage of 61% of the population, and was on track to reach 80% coverage by March 2013 and 88% coverage by December 2013. The remaining 12% of households will be covered by satellite technology.
At the same time, Pule said, South Africa's broadcasters were "ready to roll".
"The SABC is fully prepared to transmit SABC 1, 2 and 3 on the DTT network. It will also have a 24-hour news channel available for the DTT launch. Both SABC and e-TV are collaborating on a free-to-air partnership. e-TV and M-Net are ready to launch on the DTT platform and are awaiting approvals on Icasa regulations and tariff structures."
SAinfo reporter and SANews.gov.za