In a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by the Department of Communications (DoC) on Friday (27 July 2012), it stated that digital TV decoders subsidised by government must include “return path” functionality.
This is according to the South African Communications Forum (SACF), an industry association which had advocated for the inclusion of internet access capability in the RFP.
These decoders, or set-top boxes (STBs), are needed to convert digital television broadcasts to the analogue signals which South African TVs understand.
South Africa is set to begin its migration from analogue to digital broadcasting in Q3 2012, though a new cut-off date for the existing analogue signal has not been specified.
The SACF noted that a requirement for a fully functional USB 2.0 port “for support of external communication devices (e.g. 3G, 4G RF modems for return path capability)” is included in the compliance matrix appended to the RFP.
In a press statement issued today (2 August 2012), the SACF applauded Minister of Communications Dina Pule and the DoC for including these requirements in the RFP, saying that it is expected to have dramatic impact in bridging the digital divide.
“These internet connectible set top boxes will be subsidised to provide entry level access to the internet for the poorest South Africans in urban and rural areas,” the SACF said.
“Now the next challenge to be faced by industry and government 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” said Loren Braithwaite Kabosha, CEO of SACF.