Only the trialists taking part in the digital terrestrial television (DTT) test project conducted by South Afri-ca’s three broadcasters would have had access to the digital signal switched on by signal distributor Sentech on 1 November in limited sites in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. The public will have to wait for the commercial launch of DTT, which wonÕt happen before the middle of 2009, at the very earliest.
Public broadcaster SABC and commercial channel e.tv are conducting a free-to-air (FTA) DTT trial using set top boxes (STBs). Some 3,250 STBs have been distributed in the field, of which 1Ê400 will go to a research panel. Meanwhile, pay-TV broadcaster M-Net is trialing its digital services to 3 000 subscribers via their existing DStv decoders. M-Net’s signal is being distributed by Orbicom and also reaching some sites in Cape Town. The trials are expected to last between four and six months.
Two different models of the STBs are being tested in the FTA trial, one manufactured by Altech and the other by RC&C. Before the commercial launch of DTT, STBs will have to be manufactured for South Africa’s eight million television households and government’s proposed subsidy scheme for poorer households (some 4.8 million) put into place.
It’s important to note that the digital signal is MPEG4, making South Africa one of the first countries in the world to utilise this compression standard.
Read more in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Screen Africa