New television sets sold in South Africa are likely not able to receive digital broadcasts using the DVB-T2 standard that is set to launch towards the end of September 2012.
With analogue broadcasts set to continue for the time being, this lack of integrated digital tuner will likely not be an issue for a few years.
However, consumers should not be buying a new TV set under the impression that they will be able to watch digital terrestrial television (DTT) without a set-top box (STB).
Gavin Spark, marketing supervisor of TVs in LG SA’s home entertainment division explained that they are waiting for the SABS to issue the specifications for integrated DTT tuners.
For this reason LG doesn’t sell TVs with integrated digital tuners in SA, though Spark said they have successfully launched such in countries that are at the advanced stages of Digital Terrestrial broadcasting.
Spark said that LG has the technology and capabilities to make its TVs compliant to the standards set by SABS and Department of Communications (DoC).
“Once specifications for built-in digital tuners are issued by the SABS, LG will work closely with the relevant government departments to ensure our TVs are compliant to SA standards, ensuring the South African consumer is not left behind with the changes in broadcast technology in SA,” Spark said.
It’s worth noting that although the DoC have revealed plans to begin the first phase of South Africa’s switch-on of DVB-T2 in September, a new switch-off date for our analogue signal hasn’t been set yet.
For the moment state-owned signal distributor Sentech is targeting the switch-off deadline of June 2015, which South Africa agreed to with the International Telecommunications Union.
Once the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television is complete, viewers that do not use satellite services like DStv and TopTV will not be able to watch TV without a decoder-like set-top box.
This STB will be able to receive the digital signal and allow existing TVs to display it.
It is expected that eventually TVs in South Africa will have built-in DVB-T2 tuners in the same way they have built-in analogue tuners now.
Samsung and Sony were asked about their DVB-T2 capabilities and plans, but did not respond by the time of publication.