South Africa: Conference to decide on standard for TV decoders

Technology & Convergence

The Department of Communications will hold a conference on 29 April 2010 to finalize the technology standard for TV decoders, which will be used to receive a digital broadcast signal.

According to a report of a local media, Business Day, on 29 April 2010, the technology standard, which mainly applies to software, is one of the critical components of the planned move from an analogue broadcasting signal to digital. Failure to finalize the standard could derail the country’s introduction of a digital “platform” by 2015.

The technology will address issues such as the return path, a system that will enable the decoders to be used to access the internet, enabling consumers to use government websites to apply online for items such as identity documents.

However, there has been talk in the market that the government wants to ditch the digital video broadcasting-terrestrial (DVB-T) standard that was agreed upon with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) more than four years ago. Local broadcasters and signal distributors are already running tests for the DVB-T standards.

According to industry reports, the government plans to adopt the Japanese standard – the integrated services digital broadcasting terrestrial standard – in use in Brazil.

Mamodupi Mohlala, director-general of the department, said on 28 April 2010 there was a perception in the industry that the government had signed a “secret agreement” with the Japanese to adopt their standard.

“There is no secret agreement. We are holding a colloquium to hear all sides from the Japanese, Europe, Brazilian and local industries on the standards that will be suitable for the country’s needs. We will pit all technologies against each other and understand the benefits and implications of each,” she said.

She said European countries were already adopting an enhanced version of DVB-T as they have proven that the original platform had inefficiencies.

Moreover, DVB-T did not provide flexibility as the software could not be tweaked to suit their needs, without firstly approaching the manufactures, Mohlala said.

Although the ITU recommended the DVB-T standard, Mohlala said that did not block the Southern African Development Community countries from adopting their preferred standards. The new standards should be adopted by a region then presented to the ITU, she said.

The government wants to avoid signing onerous and long-term royalty payment agreements.