Third province in South Africa switching-off analogue TV

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, will oversee the switch-off of the last analogue TV transmitter in the North West Province on 22 December.

Residents in the province will now need a set-top box (STB) or a TV with a digital TV tuner to receive free-to-air broadcasting over South Africa’s terrestrial television network.

The North West will be the third province to switch off its analogue TV transmitters as part of the department’s drive to complete South Africa’s digital migration.

After more than ten years of delays, the country is on track to complete its digital migration in early 2022, with Ntshavheni overseeing the switch-off of the last transmitters in the Free State and Northern Cape.

South Africa initially set a deadline to switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) by 2011 and agreed to an International Telecommunications Union deadline of 17 June 2015.

The South African government missed both of these deadlines and every other revised deadline along the way.

Ntshavheni revealed revised deadlines for the switch-off in late 2021.

The new switching-off dates for each province are as follows:

  • Free State – End of October or first week of November 2021 (Completed: 24 November 2021)
  • Northern Cape – Between mid-November and the end of November (Completed: 26 November 2021)
  • North West – First week or second week of December (set for fourth week of December)
  • Mpumalanga – End of December or first week of January 2022
  • Limpopo – End of December or first week of January
  • KwaZulu-Natal – End of January
  • Eastern Cape – End of January
  • Western Cape – End of January
  • Gauteng – End of January

According to Ntshavheni, the plan is to decommission all analogue transmitter sites by 31 January 2022.

The switch-off is therefore on track to be completed before the deadline of 31 March 2022, set by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

However, E-tv owner eMedia would like the switch-off timeline expanded to 15–18 months.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

E-tv has also threatened legal action over the planned migration, saying that many of its viewers could be cut off from broadcasts.

eMedia is worried that this could slash its advertising revenue in the short term.

However, Ntshavheni said that she is confident her department and eMedia will reach a compromise.

Regarding E-tv’s concerns that many households would lose access to free-to-air broadcasting, Ntshavheni said that most indigent homes that qualified for set-top boxes were already watching a digital signal.

“11 million South Africans are already watching TV through satellite, and others are watching TV through DTT-compliant TV sets,” she stated.

“This digital migration is not starting today [it started years ago already]. The message has gone across,” she added.

Ntshavheni also said that government had improved DTT installer capacity.

“Sentech’s installer capacity for the remaining provinces has been created, and this will intensify installations in the following months,” she stated.

“In Limpopo and Mpumalanga, we are fully ramped up, and we are on track [with the plan] as well.”

“We are commencing with Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape in terms of the installations,” she added.

Ntshavheni emphasised that the government had been assured by STB manufacturers that there is sufficient capacity to satisfy the digital decoder demand in South Africa.

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Third province in South Africa switching-off analogue TV