Mobile TV broadcasting has been on the cards since 2005, with predictions that it would be “all over the place” by 2008. This however did not transpire.
The process was started by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), but in May the regulator announced that it has disqualified various players because they did not comply with all the requirements of the process. Only e.tv’s application complied with ICASA’s preliminary requirements, but they had yet to receive their license.
Good news for the disqualified players – which included the Mobile TV Consortium, Super 5 Media and MultiChoice – is that ICASA released another Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Digital Video Broadcasting & Handheld (DVB-H) spectrum soon afterwards.
The chairperson of ICASA, Stephen Mncube, today explained what had happened during the process of licensing the mobile TV spectrum.
E.tv initially applied for 40% of the capacity of multiplex 1, and according to Mncube it is the policy of ICASA to license all of the capacity at the multiplex. As such ICASA issued a second ITA to which only MultiChoice and Super 5 Media responded.
The bids of MultiChoice and Super 5 Media totaled more than the available capacity, and ICASA therefore needed to conduct an auction for the successful applicants.
MultiChoice bid for all of the remaining capacity, and on 27 August Super 5 Media informed ICASA that they would not be participating in the auction and withdrew their application.
MultiChoice and e.tv were therefore the only applicants for spectrum, and they will by default become the only South African broadcasters with DVB-H licenses. ICASA said that broadcasters will be awarded their licenses next week after the terms and conditions of the licenses are negotiated.
Licensees have 12 months in which to use all the capacity awarded to them and hence launch mobile TV services.
ICASA explained that the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) could suspend or revoke the licenses of licensees that don’t comply with the licensing terms.
ICASA added that there is due process to be followed for such action to be taken and that there are also options for licensees to extend the 12 month period under certain circumstances.
Neither e.tv nor MultiChoice could immediately provide details on when they plan to launch their mobile TV services.
Lara Kantor, group executive for regulatory strategy at e.tv, said that they were relieved to have finally received their license.
Nolo Letele, executive chairman of MultiChoice, said that they would make an announcement regarding their mobile TV services in due course.
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