IPTV before digital broadcasting in Africa

Digital Content

South Africa's telecommunications companies could well take advantage of IPTV, especially if it is implemented before the digital terrestrial television migration (DTT) expected in November.

Speaking at the TM Forum held in Sandton yesterday, Sami Matri, Safrecom senior multimedia consultant for France Telecom, likened the African climate to that experienced by France. “Businesses in Africa need to open the right window. In France, that window was also the opportunity to launch IPTV services before DTT.”

He said without the heavy competition of large numbers of digital channels in traditional broadcast streams, French telecoms companies had the advantage of providing local content before the broadcasters.

His description of the broadcasting climate in France had many parallels with the local market. “There were around five or six channels before DTT and IPTV really took off.” According to Matri, the country has low penetration of satellite broadcast technology and low penetration and growth of cable networks.

However, the primary distinction between the countries is the broadband penetration, which he noted is the primary technology requirement for successful IPTV. “Our high broadband competition gave us time to gain penetration on the platform, before a channel service could be made available by DTT.”

He believes that key for the African situation will be to build hybrid networks that can be connected using WiMax to ensure data rates are high enough to transmit streaming television services.

Companies hoping to implement IPTV will need networks that run with a minimum of 2Mbps, Matri added. However, according to his research figures, around 7% of all telecoms networks running in the Middle East and Africa can manage that. He said 92% of networks run under 2Mbps and only 1% of networks will carry 10Mbps or more.

With high mobile penetration in Africa, it seems to be the most viable option for an alternative television platform, he noted. However, Matri added that growing subscriber numbers will degrade network performance. “This will hinder real-time content delivery.”

It is essential that local companies start considering hybrid networks to build a sustainable IPTV platform, he urged.