The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has effectively delayed the complete switch-off of analogue TV with the announcement of a “transition period”.
Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has set the switch-off date for 31 March 2022.
However, Icasa has given broadcasters until 30 June to vacate their old analogue TV frequencies.
This is because provisional spectrum licences involving these frequencies are valid until the end of June.
Icasa assigned provisional spectrum in November last year after an outcry from mobile network operators when the regulator threatened to take temporary frequency allocations away in preparation for its spectrum auction.
Radio frequency spectrum is mobile operators’ raw network capacity to communicate between their towers and cellular devices.
“The Authority is mindful that the frequency bands subject to the analogue switch-off date are part of the radio frequency spectrum bands licensed by the Authority under the provisional spectrum licensing regime,” Icasa stated.
“Furthermore, the 700MHz and 800MHz radio frequency bands were also part of the radio frequency spectrum bands successfully auctioned by the Authority.”
To allow operators enough time to stop using the frequencies provisionally assigned to them, Icasa stated that spectrum licences it issues as a result of the auction would commence on 1 July 2022.
“As a result, the Council of Icasa has resolved that the period 1 April 2022 to 30 June 2022 shall constitute a transitional period for broadcasting service licensees and signal distributors to ensure a seamless transition process for the switch-off of the remaining analogue transmitters,” the regulator said.
Icasa chair Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said that this is not a new decision.
“It is simply an alignment of the decisions taken around these interrelated processes,” Modimoeng stated.
“As the provisional spectrum regime is still in place until the end of June, it would be prudent for the actual migration of frequencies to be aligned to this period to allow for the smooth transition thereof,” he said.
Provisional spectrum holders, state-owned signal distributor Sentech, and broadcasters using the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands will have until then to migrate out of these frequencies.