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SA's digital migration to happen ‘within two years’

26 February 2015, 09:34 Gareth van Zyl

Johannesburg - Digital broadcasting could only become a reality in South Africa in 2017, according to a Treasury document released on Wednesday that highlights estimates of national expenditure.

SA’s digital migration has faced delays as broadcasters have argued over set-top box controls. The splitting of the Department of Communications last year also stalled the project.

Digital migration is intended to help broadcasters shift from analogue signals in a move that opens up more television channels.

Meanwhile, the digital migration process will also enable more frequencies for faster mobile broadband services in SA.

And among objectives highlighted in the Treasury document on national expenditure estimates, government says it plans to “manage digital broadcasting migration to ensure the successful migration from analogue to digital television in South Africa within two years”.

However, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has set a deadline of June 15, 2015 for digital migration.

Also read: No extension to digital migration deadline, world body says

And contradicting itself in the document, government has still expressed “support” for the “Department of Communications to ensure that South Africa meets the International Telecommunications Union deadline of June 2015”.

Experts, though, have said that South Africa will not meet the June 2015 deadline.

Challenges and the next step

A report emerged last week that Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, is going against an ANC directive to adopt set-top box controls for digital migration.

Set-top boxes are the devices required to decode digital signals for analogue television sets.

But Despite Muthambi’s reported challenge to the ANC on set-top box controls, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister for Telecommunications and Postal Services Marian Shinn told Fin24 last week that she expects approval of an amended digital migration policy “any moment now”.

The policy is intended to give the go-ahead for set top box controls for devices that will be subsidised for five million poorer households.

Also, processes within cabinet are set to continue regarding digital migration, Shinn said.

"We wait for the cabinet to make its decision and say that the boxes will have access control, encryption and then for the tenders to proceed and a winning bidder or couple of winning bidders to be chosen and then to start the assembly process,” Shinn told Fin24 last week.

Last year, the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) said that R4.3bn is required for the country’s set-top box tender. Bidders in the meantime have submitted applications for the tender.

- Fin24

- News24


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