Digital TV decoders in SA must all support encryption: SACF

The South African Communications Forum called a press conference to address what it says is a “wrong view” on Cabinet’s DTT set-top box decision

By - January 21, 2014
television broadcast studio

All set-top boxes (STBs) for digital terrestrial television (DTT) that are sold in South Africa will have to include support for a so-called “STB control” system.

That is the view of the South African Communiucations Forum (SACF), which called a press conference on Tuesday, 21 January 2013.

The SACF said that it wished to address a “wrong view” about the decision Cabinet made towards the end of 2013, which declared that broadcasters may choose whether or not to encrypt their DTT signals.

E-tv argued for the mandatory encryption of free-to-air channels such as SABC and E-tv, while DStv and the SABC argued against it.

The broadcasters had reached an impasse, which the Ministry of Communications tried to resolve with its recommendation to Cabinet that encryption be optional.

This had implications for STB Control, as a control system typically requires that broadcasts be encrypted.

It also created the impression that the inclusion of a control mechanism in STBs was optional, the SACF said.

However, the organisation said that this was not the case, explaining that South Africa’s specification for STBs (SANS 862) still requires that all boxes include control functionality.

It is only the use of this feature that is optional, the SACF said.

Costs of including encryption

The SACF provided journalists with a letter it received from Nagra France, a control system provider which government is set to use in its broadcasts, through state-owned signal distributor Sentech.

Dated 16 June 2013, the letter states that Nagra is willing to waive its license fee and only charge STB manufacturers for its certification process.

Certification costs are once-off, Nagra said, only become payable if the certification was successful, and will cost a maximum of $85,000 (US).

“It is also important to remember that these services fees and development efforts can be avoided with a pre-integrated Nagra STB control chipset solutions available on the market,” the letter said.

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