You have to give the Brazilian government 10 out of 10 for perseverance. Against a background in which South African stakeholders have roundly condemned the Minister of Communication Siphiwe Nyanda for advancing the cause of the Japanese standard ISDB-T at such a late stage of the country’s move to a digital switchover, the Brazilian government is still insisting that the Japanese digital technology is best. To this end, it will test the Japanese standard in South Africa at the end of the month.
South Africa together with the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region is required by the International Telecommunications Union to migrate from the analogue to digital broadcasting system. This will provide better quality pictures, opportunities for more TV channels and other services.
South African stakeholders and the disbanded Digital Dzonga committee put in place by government to advise on the digital swith-over had opted for the DVB-T standard which has a proven record in the UK and Europe. Its success has been determined by its technical performance and affordability with regard to the cost of set-top boxes and integrated digital TVs, cost of equipment such as transmitters and cost of training.
The new standard if it is introduced will not only cost the industry billions of additional rands but also delay the digital transition even further, say industry experts. The original deadline for the analogue switch-off was November 2011 but this date will probably be extended to 2014.
Sadc ministers in charge of the digital broadcasting technology review are expected to make a final decision at the end of August.
The Japanese standard has been adopted by Japan, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Bolivia. According to the Brazilian government, the ISDB-T technology is very suited to Africa which has limited broadband and thus far Kenya and Tanzania have been actively targeted.
The Brazilians have modified the Japanese standard with their own software, Ginga, which allows for free mobile-TV and Internet services (ISDB-Tb).
In order to persuade South Africa to adopt the Japanese standard, Brazil has offered to partly finance joint ventures regarding the manufacture of decoders, laboratories, training and broadcast content. The carrot the Brazilian government has also held out to South Africa is further opportunities and collaboration in other areas such as military, defence and mining.
According to a report in Business Day (17 August), Andre Barbosa Filho , special adviser to the office of the Brazilian presidency, says the ISDB-T tests will be run on an 8MHz band at Sentech from the end of the month in three different phases and will take a few weeks.
The objective is to prove that the technology can work on a different frequency. Brazil operates on the 6MHz band frequency, which provides up to 13 standard TV channels or two high definition channels, one standard channel as well as another channel for mobile TV. SA uses the 8MHz band which provides 25% more capacity according to Frederico Nogueira , the president of the Brazilian Terrestrial Digital TV System Forum. Only a few minor adjustments will have to be undertaken to operate in the 8Mhz band, says Brazil.
Some commentators claim Brazil will be the only beneficiary of the adoption of its standards, not South Africa.