The minimum requirements for the production of television set-top-boxes (STBs) were launched at the information and communications technology indaba in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“It is one of the mile-stones that we have reached in the broadcasting digital migration process,” said Minister of Communications Dina Pule in a speech prepared for delivery.
SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) chairman Bahle Sibisi said the organisation’s mark of approval was mandatory in the production of sets when television was first launched in the country in the 1970s.
“Almost 40 years later, the SABS continues to drive quality assurance and standards in the local broadcasting industry,” she said.
Pule said the launch of the requirements, known as the standard, would help put to rest questions about whether the department would be able to implement the transition to digital television in its proposed time frame.
“My answer is that we are on track,” she said.
The digital broadcasting shift is scheduled for September.
“Through this standard, we are inviting local manufacturers to be innovative, [and] within this framework, to deliver decoders that will improve the television experience of our citizens.”
The Democratic Alliance previously criticised as “misguided” the decision to opt for locally manufactured STBs, claiming imported STBs were cheaper and would reduce government subsidies for the switch-over.
An estimated five million households will receive STB subsidies.
DA MP Marian Shinn said in March that the demand for STBs had a limited lifespan and thus local manufacture would not create long-term employment.
Sibisi said the SABS was building a laboratory to allow local manufacturers to test their STBs and this should be functional by October.
The SA Communications Forum congratulated Pule for including internet access in the STBs as this would help to create a more equal society.
Chairman Lucky Masilela said the step demonstrated commitment to bridging the digital divide as it would “bring the poorest of the poor into the information society”.
Chief executive Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha said there was still work to be done in terms of infrastructure.
“Now the next challenge … is to ensure that broadband is rolled out as swiftly as possible in rural areas, to bring greater accessibility and utilisation of the internet access to be provided on the set-top-box”.