South Africa: Digital TV goes live in November

Technology & Convergence

Television in South Africa enters a new era in November, when digital signals will start running in parallel with analogue. The switch-on date is November 1. by Jocelyn Uithaler Analogue signals will continue for three years, after which it will be necessary for non-digital TV sets to be fitted with set-top boxes (STBs).

Communications department spokesman Albie Modise said the digital signal would provide superior image and sound to analogue. Set-top boxes will enable analogue television sets to convert the analogue signal to a digital signal, Modise said.

“The migration is made necessary by the developments in telecommunications technologies which enable a more efficient use of radio frequency spectrum as well as better quality pictures and sound,” Makhafola said.

The STBs will be manufactured in South Africa, and the government will subsidise about five million of the poorest television-owning households by 70 per cent. Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka would launch an anti-poverty strategy to determine which households depended on social grants, Makhafola said. “The box is estimated at R700,” he said.

The STBs are tailor-made for South Africa, and will not work outside the country‘s borders. Makhafola said: “It is designed in such a way that if stolen, we are able to switch it off or disable it.”

The STB, Makhafola said, was an important tool to access government information and services.

It has several features, including giving viewers the opportunity to review upcoming programmes by using a remote control. The STB also includes a return path capability feature, which allows the user to receive and send messages.

“This feature enables the full and interactive provision of e-government services such as accessing, filling in and sending back government forms without leaving home or the place where the TV set is located,” Makhafola said. The analogue signal will be switched off in November 2011.