SA: First DVB-T2 switch-on in June 2011

Technology & Convergence

Communications Minister Roy Padayachie delivered his budget vote speech in parliament today, shedding light in the Department of Communications’ plans in the telecoms and broadcasting space. One of the department’s focus areas is the migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

In December 2010 cabinet reaffirmed its decision to adopt the DVB-T standard for the process of digital migration, said Padayachie. “Accordingly, Cabinet adopted the preferred standard of DVB-T2, an upgrade of DVB-T, and agreed to December 2013 as the new switch-off date, with a view to allow the period between 2013 and 2015 to address any challenge that may arise towards the ITU deadline (of 2015),” the minister said.

According to Padayachie the Department of Communications (DoC) will implement interventions to ensure that South Africa migrates to digital broadcasting by 2013. “Significant progress has already been made in implementing the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy for South Africa.”

“A successful trial conducted by broadcasters and the signal distributor has demonstrated that South Africa is ready with the process of migrating from analogue terrestrial television to digital terrestrial television using the adopted DVB-T2 standard,” said Padayachie. The minister added that substantial work has been done by Sentech in upgrading its broadcasting infrastruture from the existing DVB-T to DVB-T2.

Last year former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda said that Sentech’s target was to reach 60% population coverage by the end of the financial year 2010/11 (hence March 2011).

Padayachie today confirmed that this target was reached. “By March 2011, Sentech achieved 60% population coverage on the DVB-T2 standard,” the communications minister said.

Padayachie said that the uptake of digital broadcasting technology will expand the public bouquet in content viewing, for example, increase the number of channels from the current 3 SABC channels to over 10. “These additional channels will provide an opportunity for the growth and transformation of the local content development industry,” said Padayachie.

“We expect the South African Bureau of Standards to finalise the second generation DVB-T2 standard during the last quarter of 2011,” said Padayachie. “The set-top box (STB) manufacturing strategy and the scheme for the framework for ownership support will be submitted to Cabinet in August 2011. We are consulting widely with industry and relevant stakeholders towards finalising this process. ”

According to the minister this will pave the way for the DoC to select the preferred STB manufacturers for the subsidised market by November 2011 and deploying the necessary infrastructure for the distribution of the subsidised STBs.

“The manufacturing of subsidised STBs will commence following Cabinet approval. With regard to the unsubsidised STB market, manufacturing will begin once the SABS standards process is concluded. We anticipate that the digital terrestrial television public launch will take place in April 2012,” said Padayachie.

Sentech will, in June 2011, switch-on the first DVB-T2 test transmission at the Brixton tower in Johannesburg, targeting townships and informal settlements around the Johannesburg metropolitan area.

“By end 2012, Sentech will have upgraded the existing infrastructure to DVB-T2, to cover 80% of the population. We intend to achieve 100% population coverage by the end of 2013 to enable analogue signal switch-off,” said Padayachie.

“Working together with all broadcasters and signal distributors, an integrated DTT project implementation plan has been developed and will seek Cabinet approval in August 2011. Due to the complexity and the magnitude of the digital migration process, we have decided to establish a dedicated Digital Migration Project Office to be located within the Department to drive the DTT implementation plan,” the minster concluded.