SENTECH ON TRACK FOR 2010 HD BROADCASTS

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National signal distributor Sentech says that in the next two months it might be able to transmit high definition (HD) television to the country, four years before SA hosts the 2010 World Cup.

Sentech, the state-owned operator of SA's broadcasting signal distribution network, was lashed by Parliament when it warned that the country would not be able to show the 2010 World Cup unless government pumped in more resources for infrastructure.

One of world football governing body Fifa's demands for SA hosting the 2010 showpiece is that the country can handle HD transmission technology.

However, Sentech CEO Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane said that, with or without the 2010 World Cup, the parastatal's 30-year-old transmission infrastructure was in grave need of being replaced.

Mokone-Matabane said it would take Sentech close on two months to get the infrastructure in place for a satellite feed to the host cities for the World Cup games in 2010.

Getting the offering to South Africans viewers would then depend on the roll-out of TV sets with digital receivers, she said.

On Tuesday, the SABC broadcast the country's first live HD transmission with the help of Sentech. It screened the second- round World Cup match between Ghana and Brazil.

The signal was beamed directly from the SABC's Air Time satellite dish in Germany to Johannesburg.

The broadcaster said that next month it would receive its first HD outside broadcast unit and that it was also busy constructing a second unit, to be completed by year-end.

The HD transmission system uses five to eight times the bandwidth of the 625PAL system that the SABC currently uses.

The broadcaster said it was not possible to transmit the bandwidth over satellite and that the signal had to be compressed for satellite transmission.

Mokone-Matabane said that, at a cost of R1bn, the group had a target of reaching 92% HD national coverage by 2010.

Business Day