South Africa’s DTT Transition finally begins to gather some speed – 85% DTT coverage planned, balance by satellite

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Those with long memories will remember that South Africa’s digital transition was supposed to have started by the World Cup in 2010. A combination of Government “speed” and industry bickering managed to set the process back by five. This week the signs are that the transition is finally beginning to gather pace.

Signal carrier Sentech has already carried out extensive past testing and so was really waiting for the political go-ahead to start rolling out network coverage. When it switched on, it had 178 DTT transmitters ready for operation

In March 2015 the Government revealed that 65% of TV households rely on Free-To-Air broadcasting. To extend Free-To-Air broadcasting it set a target for 85% of the country to be covered by DTT signal with the balance being provided by satellite.

Last month it announced that it had reached 54.49% of the country was covered, representing 84.46% of the population after two new “greenfield” sites went live in Free State and Eastern Cape. Two more greenfield sites are planned for Limpopo and Eastern Cape with last two greenfield sites going live by March 2016. The end result will be 85.2% population coverage

As everyone knows, providing DTT coverage is only part of the process of transition. You need people to actually buy set-top boxes. This week a joint venture between China’s Shenzhen Skyworth Digital Technology Co and local company BUA Africa

Skyworth Digital Ships First 70,000 Set-top Boxes Across South Africa successfully completed its first shipment, delivering a total of 70,000 set-top boxes across South Africa.

“Skyworth Digital invests in its customers, their countries and the local people in order to foster long-term relationships, and so our strategy is to put our factories as close to where our customers are as possible,” said Angélique Boissy, VP Global Sales at Skyworth Digital. “This initiative, which we call ‘edge manufacturing’, not only allows us to contribute to our customers’ local economies, but also speeds up time-to-market and reduces operating expenses: savings which can then be passed on to our customers.”

Skyworth Digital is the first company to pass South Africa’s governmental requirements for DTT STBs in the region (Full SANS 862 SABS certification including ICASA). The Johannesburg factory is the first in a series of new manufacturing centers Skyworth Digital plans to open as it looks to implement its ‘edge manufacturing’ concept across the business.
Currently, Skyworth Digital is producing about 150,000 set top boxes per month but plan to increase this figure to 400,000 shipments per month.

Finally with almost no fanfare, South Africa has started to look at digital radio. The National Association of Broadcasters and the Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (Sadiba), are running DAB+ and DRM digital radio technology trials.

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