According to All Africa government is on track to complete the subsidised set-top box (STB) rollout programme in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) area in the Northern Cape.
Department of Communications chief director: Technology, Digital Migration Project, Wonder Dlangamandla, said the uptake of digital STBs in the area is an important step towards clearing the analogue transmissions in the region in order to pave the way for the successful operation of the international radio telescope, the SKA project, that South Africa is co-hosting with Australia.
According to Dlangamandla, analogue television transmissions produce harmful interference to the radio telescope operations. He said upon completion of the rollout in the area, an estimated 25 000 households will enjoy the benefits of digital quality, free-to-air television broadcasts incorporating all public service channels, including the SABC 24-hour satellite news channel 404.
Dlangamandla said the current digital terrestrial and satellite bouquet also includes free entertainment channels and will in future add some educational channels.
"The rollout will extend to other provinces in a phased approach, with priority given to the provinces bordering South Africa with neighbouring countries. This is to mitigate against any mutual interference with our neighbours, particularly those that are ready to provide new generation mobile telecommunications services in the same spectrum that is currently used by analogue television transmissions," he said.
The protection of analogue television transmissions ceased as of 17 June 2015, as per the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) resolutions, of which South Africa is a signatory.
The ITU resolved at the World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15) held in Geneva, Switzerland, that the spectrum that will be freed up by the analogue transmissions will be allocated for mobile telecommunications. This is the so-called digital dividend.
"It is important to note that the digital television signal is available all over the country in South Africa. Suitable STBs or decoders complying with the compulsory South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) SANS862 specification and the international DVB-T2 technical standard can immediately access the South African Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services nationwide.
"Furthermore, some of the latest flat screen television sets from most leading manufacturers already incorporate a digital tuner conforming to DVB-T2 and SABS specifications and can readily receive digital signals without the need of an additional STB.
"All SABC channels, including the 24-hour SABC News Channel and other free to air services are available and no subscription fees apply," Dlangamandla said.
However, he said areas that are not accessible via the terrestrial transmitters can receive the transmissions via satellite on decoders conforming to the international DVB-S2 technical standard and the SABS SANS1719 specification.
Government is working closely with the retailers to make STBs or decoders available in the market for those households who do not qualify for the government subsidy.