Another technology change in the broadcasting sector is under way, and it will affect many more people than the advent of high definition (HD) television.
In this case, more than 7 million households with analogue receivers will have to upgrade their sets as the department of communications and its signal distributor, Sentech, improve the signal from analogue to the much clearer digital broadcasts.
The International Telecommunications Union requires that South Africa switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) format and disconnect the analogue signal by 2011.
The department and Sentech were not available to provide an update on the DTT process.
In March Sentech said it had applied for R955 million for the process. The treasury has allocated R200 million and committed a further R450 million.
Sentech was still motivating for the outstanding R300 million. An additional R917 million is required for the cost of transmitting digital and analogue signals simultaneously.
It is not clear how many of Sentech’s more than 200 transmitters have been upgraded, but the parastatal expects 80 percent of the population to have digital reception by 2010.
Once all analogue services had been migrated to digital, Sentech might introduce an HD television channel, it said in 2006. This was likely to be launched by 2010 to enable the SABC to broadcast matches.
Until then, only MultiChoice subscribers who have bought HD equipment will enjoy the benefits of that format.