Digital TV signal disruptions announced

State-owned signal distributor Sentech announced that it has begun restacking digital TV frequencies in towns where the migration from SABC’s old analogue signal has been completed.

It warned that disruptions to digital terrestrial TV signals could last up to 6 hours.

Restacking is where the frequencies used for a service — in this case digital TV — are moved around to more efficiently use precious radio frequency spectrum.

Digital TV occupies the same bands of frequencies that are suitable for 4G and 5G mobile networks, known as the digital dividend.

Efficient use of these bands can make more spectrum available for network operators.

South Africa’s mobile network operators have said that with additional spectrum they can provide better coverage and lower prices.

This is because they can use the extra spectrum on existing towers, rather than spending capital on building more towers.

Efficient use of frequencies in the digital dividend bands is especially important as there is much less bandwidth available than in higher frequency bands.

Restacking is therefore an essential part of South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) confirmed in 2020 that the digital migration will be a two-stage process, with restacking being the final step.

Sentech is forging ahead with restacking despite pending litigation against Icasa and communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

Telkom has brought a case against the regulator to halt its spectrum auction set for 8 March. It hopes the High Court will hear its case in the first week of March, before the auction.

Among Telkom’s complaints is the issue of the digital dividend spectrum. E-tv owner eMedia refuses to allow its analogue signal to be switched off by 8 March.

eMedia has brought a case against Ntshavheni and Icasa. It argues that government’s analogue switch-off is too aggressive and will leave many South Africans without access to TV broadcasts.

According to eMedia, government should switch off analogue TV signals over 15 months. This would also delay the release of additional 4G and 5G spectrum.

Ntshavheni has said she is hopeful that her department will reach a settlement with eMedia, and complete South Africa’s digital migration before the auction.

In the meantime, Sentech has said it will proceed with digital terrestrial TV frequency restacking in the Northern Cape and North West, migrating to frequency bands below 694 MHz.

Sentech said that it may be necessary for digital TV viewers to reset their set-top box once the frequency changes have been concluded.

Digital TV frequency restacking
Town Date
Pofadder 25 January 2022
Garies 25 January 2022
Groblershoop 26 January 2022
Louisvaleweg 26 January 2022
Oranjekruin 26 January 2022
Paballelo 26 January 2022
Upington 26 January 2022
Kleinsee 26 January 2022
Steinkopf 26 January 2022
Springbok 26 January 2022
Potsmasburg 26 January 2022
Keimoes 26 January 2022
De Aar 27 January 2022
Hopetown 27 January 2022
Britstown 27 January 2022
Alexander Bay 27 January 2022
Noupoort 1 February 2022
Douglas 1 February 2022
Griekwastad 1 February 2022
Colesberg 2 February 2022
Magogong 2 February 2022
Taung / Taung Station 2 February 2022
Pudimoe 2 February 2022
Kraaipan 3 February 2022
Madibogo 3 February 2022
Victoria West 3 February 2022
Supingstad 4 February 2022

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Digital TV signal disruptions announced