South Africa’s digital migration — how much set-top box installers are paid

The South African government is paying appointed VAT-registered digital TV set-top box installers R450 per installation, while non-VAT-registered installers get R390.

In his response to parliamentary questions from Democratic Alliance MP Tsholofelo Motshidi-Bodlani, communications minister Mondli Gungubele also revealed the names of appointed installers.

“Companies are contracted at R450 per successfully completed installation for VAT registered companies and R390 non-VAT registered companies,” said Gungubele.

Altogether, 855 companies have been appointed to install set-top boxes for the country’s broadcast digital migration project.

“Sentech has issued 1,090 appointments to 825 installation companies in different provinces. Some were appointed in different provinces due to capacity,” the minister said.

The complete list of appointees is available here. However, Gungubele noted that some appointees had failed to fulfil their contracted obligations.

“The defaulting SMMEs have either corrected their conduct and performance or in some instances their contracts were cancelled,” he said.

The defaulting SMMEs that retained their contracts are listed here.

Mondli Gungubele, South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

STBs are decoder-like devices some households will need to translate digital TV signals into a format older TVs with analogue tuners can display.

In the latest update on STB installations, the DCDT revealed that, as of 30 November 2022, 185,382 subsidised STBs still had to be installed.

Then-communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said it would take just over three months to complete the installations.

During the same update, the former minister announced a new deadline for the long-awaited analogue switch-off — 31 March 2023.

“I hereby give notice to the industry and affected parties of my intention to determine 31 March 2023 as the analogue switch-off date and the end of [the] dual illumination period,” Ntshavheni said.

“Industry and affected parties are invited to make substantive representations either in support [of] or opposing the proposed date.”

Despite Ntshavheni emphasising that the analogue switch-off must proceed without further delays, the DCDT added 31 March 2023 to the long list of missed broadcasting digital migration deadlines.

“The quality of connectivity is degrading across the country, and some areas have completely lost network coverage,” she said.

“We have already started receiving reports of cross-interference between broadcasting and IMT services. Something we do not want to occur at all.”

However, Gungubele announced a new deadline for the switch-off on 15 June 2023. The DCDT plans to switch off all analogue TV broadcasts by 31 December 2024.

As an intermediate step, all analogue services above 694 MHz will be switched off or migrated by 31 July 2023.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, security minister in the Presidency and former communications minister

Baker’s dozen of ministers and 12 missed deadlines

South Africa’s broadcast digital migration project has spanned the tenure of 13 different communications ministers since it was first announced in December 2006.

These include Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (acting), Roy Padayachie, Faith Muthambi, Ayanda Dlodlo, Mmamoloko Kubayi, Stella Ntabeni-Abrahams, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and now, Mondli Gungubele.

The department has only delivered on two of its deadlines, one of which — the publication of the Broadcast Digital Migration Policy — was delivered late.

Sentech successfully switched on digital terrestrial television by the set deadline of 1 November 2008. However, regarding analogue switch-off dates, the DCDT has yet to meet a single deadline.

The first switch-off date was set for 1 November 2011, as per Matsepe-Casaburri, and has since been extended multiple times and handed from communications minister to communications minister.

South Africa’s missed and achieved digital migration deadlines are summarised in the table below.

South Africa’s digital TV migration deadlines — from 2006 to 2022
Deadline Milestone Outcome
31 December 2006 Digital migration strategy delivery Missed
1 June 2007 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy (BDMP) publication Missed
8 September 2008 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy (BDMP) published Delivered late
1 November 2008 Digital terrestrial television switch-on On-time
11 June 2010  80% digital TV signal coverage by FIFA World Cup Missed
1 November 2011 Analogue terrestrial TV switch-off — initial deadline (per Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri) Missed
30 April 2013 Potential analogue terrestrial TV switch-off (per ICASA) Missed
31 December 2013 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Roy Padayachie) Missed
17 June 2015 IAfrica’sine for analogue switch-off Missed
31 December 2018 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Faith Muthambi) Missed
30 June 2019 Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said ITU revised South Africa’s deadline, DA says she was lying. Regardless, we missed it. Missed
31 July 2020 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Nomvula Mokonyane) Missed
31 December 2020 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Nomvula Mokonyane) Missed
31 December 2021 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams) Missed
31 January 2022 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams, affirmed by Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Missed
31 March 2022 New analogue terrestial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Missed
30 June 2022 New analogue terrestial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, following High Court ruling) Missed
31 March 2023  New analogue terrestial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, following Consitutional Court ruling) Missed
31 December 2024 Latest analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline Pending

Now read: Total TV Licence disaster

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South Africa’s digital migration — how much set-top box installers are paid