Sentech’s digital TV groundhog day

Minister of Communications Dina Pule said during a press briefing on 24 January 2012 that state-owned signal distributor Sentech is expected to cover more than 60% of South Africa’s population for digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Considering the many delays that have plagued South Africa’s digital migration, and the fact that the public launch of DTT has been pushed back to at least Q3 2012, this seems like an admirable target.

However, it is tragically amusing to note that this exact target has been set for the same month for the last two years now.

Towards the end of 2009 Sentech said that it aimed to achieve 63.3% population coverage by March 2010.

This was to be on the standard previously selected for South Africa called DVB-T.

After a tug-o-war in 2010 between proponents of the European DVB family of standards and the Japanese/Brazilian ISDB standards, the Department of Communications said in early 2011 that SA would be changing to DVB-T2.

In February 2011, it was revealed that Sentech once again had to meet a 60% population coverage target by March 2011, this time for the DVB-T2 standard.

This is where things get interesting, because not only did former Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie say that Sentech hit this target, Sentech originally needed to cover 80% of the population by the end of the 2011/2012 financial year (or March 2012).

It seems that a new target has been set for Sentech that they’ve already hit, or the roll-out is delayed (again).

Sentech explained that they would have achieved the rollout target of 60% population coverage by end of March 2011 if not for the switch to DVB-T2 in January 2011.

“Following the adoption of the DVB-T2 standard in January 2011, Sentech began upgrading its network to the DVB-T2 standard. By the end of March 2012, Sentech will be ready with the DVB-T2 network covering 60% of the population,” Sentech said.

The signal distributor said that it is indeed on track to ensure that affected broadcasters migrate from analogue to digital television within the timelines set by government.

According to previous statements made by Sentech and the DoC, this means 96% population coverage by March 2013.

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Sentech’s digital TV groundhog day