Information communications and technology (ICT) ministers of the Southern African Development Community announced the outcome of their decision to adopt Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T) throughout the region, at a special session held in Lusaka, Zambia on Thursday, 24 November.
General (Ret) Siphiwe Nyanda, former Minister of Communications, dropped a bombshell on the industry in April when he announced that his department was prepared to challenge the DVB-T standard for set top boxes with a review of an alternative Brazilian-Japanese standard, Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial (ISDB-T).
Broadcasters e.tv and M-Net, SADIBA (Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association) and stakeholders strongly criticised the surprise decision by the DoC. At the time more than R700m had already been invested by the industry and stakeholders in preparation for DVB-T.
The uncertainty which has raged within the South African industry based on the DoCs support for ISDB-T standard has still however to be concluded as it awaits a decision from new Minister of Communications, Roy Padayachie. He undertook in his media statement of 11 November to pronounces on the countrys position in relation to the digital terrestrial television standard by mid December. He furthermore stated that the implementation of the digital migration policy and the finalising of the set top box manufacturing strategy was a priority in his department.
The process of migration from analogue to digital broadcasting began in 2000 when the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) set an international migration deadline of 1 June 2015. SADC member states have agreed to an earlier digital switchover date of 31 December 2013 to ensure that any challenges are overcome by the global deadline of 2015.
Joel Kaapanda, the Namibian chairman of the SADC ICT committee, says the committee decided to adopt DVB-T as it conforms to the technical requirements of the Geneva ITU GE06 Agreement, of which SADC is a signatory. Furthermore a number of SADC member states, amongst others Mauritius, have commenced implementing the DVB-T standard.
He confirmed that SADC countries will be encouraged to migrate where possible to the superior version, DVB-T2 with MPEG4 compression. M-Net and e.tv have recently conducted successful tests with DVB-T2 in Soweto, Johannesburg.
SADC member states that decide to adopt any other standard than DVB-T2 with MPEG4 compression should do so in compliance with GE-06 Agreement, says Kaapanda.