The Department of Communications (DoC) has set itself a deadline of December 2013 to complete South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.
This is according to Minister of Communications, Dina Pule, who was speaking to attendees of the department’s “proof of concept” launch of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in the Northern Cape today (3 October 2012).
In the context of the Minister’s speech this deadline is merely a target the DoC has set for itself, with the real deadline being the 17 June 2015 deadline recommended by the International Telecommunications Union.
The full quote from the Minister’s speech was as follows:
We have given ourselves a deadline of December 2013 to complete the digital migration process, while the International Telecommunications Union deadline of 2015 will allow us to ensure that we take care of any unforeseen hiccups in the process.
This new deadline and the DoC’s aim to launch DTT commercially by December 2012 may be ambitious considering the high court action taken against Pule by E-TV.
E-TV initiated proceedings in the South Gauteng High Court over the administration of the control system for DTT set-top boxes (STBs). The broadcaster asserts that Pule had illegally made the state-owned signal distributor, Sentech, responsible for the STB control system.
It is understood that every household in SA will need an STB to receive the digital signal until TVs become available domestically that support South Africa’s chosen standard for DTT signals (DVB-T2).
There are also certain specifications particular to digital TV in SA that these TVs may need to support.
E-TV has indicated that it doesn’t expect the roll-out of DTT can proceed until the dispute between it and the Minister over STB control is resolved.
A delay in the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting will have an impact on the roll-out of high speed wireless broadband services such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), particularly in rural areas.
Network operators have said that the spectrum currently occupied by analogue TV is well-suited to the roll out of broadband networks in rural areas due to its lower frequency (around 800MHz).
This is also a band that has been identified for LTE deployments elsewhere in the world, and has been earmarked for use in telecommunications by the South African regulator, ICASA.