SA's digital TV to switch on 26 September

2012-08-21 13:47
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – South Africa's launch of digital migration – the start of the real switch from analogue to digital broadcasting and digital terrestrial television (DTT) – is planned for 26 and 27 September 2012 in the Northern Cape with the area of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) chosen where 20 set top boxes (STBs) will be activated in a symbolic, ceremonial "switch-on" ceremony.

The SKA has been chosen to demonstrate that the frequencies used will not be interfering with the SKA project and to show people in South Africa's "deep rural areas", currently without access to public television, that they could have access.

The government and South Africa's broadcasting industry plans to roll out DTT over the next three years, which will require TV viewers to buy a STB and an antenna, with poorest households receiving a partial subsidy.

Channel24 can also reveal that the government now also pegs the price of a STB at R400 – a big drop from the original R700. STBs will be distributed through the South African Post Office.

Broadcast Master Plan

Meanwhile a STB Control System is being developed under the auspices of Sentech which would cost South Africa R10m and enable the government and/or broadcasters to turn STBs on and off. Sentech is also working with the SABC and the broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on what is called a "Broadcast Master Plan" specifically regarding DTT coverage for the country.

According to South Africa's department of communications, the SABC, and M-Net are all ready to launch on the DTT platform, the department told parliament in a special progress report on the country's readiness for digital terrestrial television.

The SABC is ready to transmit SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 on the DTT network and will also have its new 24-hour news TV channel ready for DTT which the SABC plans to launch at the beginning of September on MultiChoice's DStv platform. The SABC and is also working on a free-to-air (FTA) partnership to promote their collective digital television offering.

The SABC, and Sentech are meanwhile in the process of establishing specific call centres to deal with DTT enquiries from viewers and consumers, although the SABC needs more call centre space for this.

The launch, if it does take place on 26 and 27 September, will be largely ceremonial; a technical launch since no tenders for the manufacture of STBs have yet been awarded by government. No real STBs will exist to be bought by South African consumers and viewers to actually watch digital television transmissions since it takes three months to manufacture a STB.

Sentech has ordered 20 STBs for the 26 September DTT launch - with 10 to be used for direct-to-home (DTH) and 10 for the DTT technical launch demonstration.

SA's massive DTT budget shortfall

Meanwhile South Africa's DTT budget is experiencing a massive shortfall to enable the digital migration. The Department of Communications needs STB subsidies to the tune of R2.635bn, over and above the R940m projected earlier. The overall shortfall, including the SABC's technology upgrade and Sentech's dual illumination requirements is projected at R7bn for South Africa.

There is also a budget shortfall of R800m for the DTT Awareness Campaign of the Department of Communications, meant to inform South African consumers and TV viewers on how to switch-over to DTT.

Both the Department of Communications and Sentech, the parastatal signal distributor, were told by parliament to communicate and collaborate more with each other on digital migration.

Sentech told parliament that it is committed, ready and capable to support a national technical launch of DTT during the third quarter of 2012, within the existing DTT coverage areas for terrestrial services. Sentech further said that the signal distributor was working towards 80% coverage by the end of the financial year with full conversions of sites in Limpopo, the Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, and additional sites in the Eastern Cape, North West and the Western Cape.

SKA chosen to 'prove that DTT works'

Roy Kruger, the technical adviser to the Department of Communications, told Parliament that the department is targeting the SKA in the Northern Cape firstly as a "proof of concept" – to show that DVB-T2 works, and secondly that the frequencies used are not interfering with the SKA Project. Thirdly, it will show that people in rural areas without access to TV could now receive public SA television.

Logistics and political arrangements for the launch dates of 26 and 27 September are apparently already in place. The DTT technical launch would have two components to it – namely satellite or direct-to-home (DTH) around the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to prove that the SKA signals would not interfere with broadcast signals, and DTT transmission to a township near Kimberley which currently has the only DTT transmitter in the Northern Cape.

The department of communications has already identified 3 500 installers nationally who would assist with DTT installation.


  • iceman196 - 2012-08-21 14:00

    ya sure whatever sabc, tell it to your masses and of course still no cricket rugby or golf, you can stick it

  • jan.matsetela - 2012-08-21 14:24

    If it's going to have a sports channel were we can see all PSL and European games i'm cool with it.

  • julian.booyens - 2012-08-21 14:28

    Really!! in which decade will you be on par with the rest of the world? Even Namibia has already switched over. I would also not do business with a company that takes 3 months to manufacture one box where a car manufactures can assemble a whole car within 24 hours, go figure?

      ofentse.ramorula - 2012-08-21 15:13

      Julian.booyens and all the ppl that gave u thumbs ups have clearly no idea how the manufacturing world operates judging from your dumb statement. The logistics to make the device should actually take even longer. Think about how many components will be required to put the device together. The majority will probably have to be imported. It takes between 16 to 20 weeks to get items here from overseas. The car that you talk about might be assembled in 20 mins but that is with all components available at hand, but if you consider the manufacturing of each an every component used it might span to more than six months.

  • ian.d.samson - 2012-08-21 14:30

    So prove to me why I need a set top box when I already get all my television via satellite? I'm not paying R400 for something I don't need.

      introvert.introverts - 2012-08-21 15:43

      You might have it but, Not ALL South Africans have Satellite TV.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-08-21 16:05

      Your satellite decoder is already a STB, as you already receive SABC and eTV digitally - 2012-08-22 10:32

      Hi Ian, you prove that you are getting ALL your television via satellite...

  • trevor.pietersen.3 - 2012-08-21 14:33

    Hahahaha....will it work???? THEY gonna start stealing the "dishes"

  • kosmonooit - 2012-08-21 14:42

    Please hurry up so I don't have to renew my TV license (which I am forced to pay for even though I never watch TV, let alone SABC) I have no intention of 'going digital. Sit dit af!

  • naas.viljoen.16 - 2012-08-21 15:15

    Good, so now I can legally choose not to watch SABC TV by not buying a STB.

  • introvert.introverts - 2012-08-21 15:47

    At least (now) there is someone who cares about rural areas.

  • arthur.hugh - 2012-08-21 16:09

    Half of SA won't bother - I for one only use it to watch DVD's, and my blueray machine is hooked up to my home network so I can surf the net with it and watch other online movies. One's I choose - not some 1920 black and white rubbish that fell off the back of a truck. Stick it SABC! - 2012-08-21 17:06

      I am just like you.ADSL uncapped 4meg.Work and play at the tips of my fingers.

      gareth.breydenbach - 2012-08-30 10:45

      And no add breaks every 10 min.adsl for the win

  • Sechaba30 - 2012-08-21 17:58

    lol, I can bet my whole salary its not gonna happen.

  • Kwajo.m - 2012-08-21 21:20

    STB and an antenna is expensive than a satellite dish and a decoder. Why? Then let's adopt a dish as its cheaper.

      introvert.introverts - 2012-08-21 22:38

      You dont get the point kwanjo.

  • mmanana - 2012-09-15 00:04

    i wonder if the sabc will rehire the team it fired that worked tirelessly to make DTT possible??

      happy.mbele.754 - 2013-01-22 14:41

      tell them haters poeple ubazikhonayo bazonda everything ianc-gov eyenzayo

  • mmanana - 2012-09-15 00:17

    OK people you should not comment about technical issues if u have no idea what is going on, firstly the DTT STB policy allows for a fully populated mother board to be imported then the assembling of the box and the manufacturing of the case and the remote be done locally. secondly you think you are already getting SABC digitally coz u have DSTV, WRONG, SABC send and Analogue Signal to Sentech which is downstream so that cant be digital, you are just getting an uninterupte danalogue signalwhich is patched onto a digital device. Thirdly, you people need to understand why the move to digital broadcasting is a necessity, digital broadcasting uses less bandwith, much less, meaning space will be freed up for all the things you always complain about like clear phone lines, faster wireless internet, more tv and radio stations to name just a few. can we learn to do some research before we act like we know it all

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