As South Africa prepares for next year’s commercial launch of digital terrestrial television (DTT), the question arises of where satellite fits in with what is a terrestrial migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.
South African broadcasters and signal distributors, as well as the government, have already invested millions to test a DTT platform — first on the DVB-T transmission standard followed by DVB-T2.
Says Christoph Limmer, senior director for Market Development in Africa at satellite operator SES: “Satellite TV (DTH) is an ideal complement to DTT, but will certainly not replace existing DTT infrastructures. It can either be used as primary infrastructure to feed the terrestrial network infrastructure or complement the DTT offering. Therefore migration costs can be significantly reduced and the DTT roll-out effected more speedily and efficiently.’
Limmer cites the example of the French government, which has spent over E600m to roll out the network infrastructure, realising that DTT will reach only 95% of the population. “The government launched the same offering on satellite to reach the remaining five percent of the population. Other countries like Italy followed suit but ceased building up DTT network infrastructures much earlier and added satellite offerings.’
He notes that satellite is capable of serving terrestrial, cable or IP networks everywhere around the globe. The satellite signal (DTH) can be sent directly to a satellite dish (aerial) or terrestrially. “I can illustrate this by using the French TNTSat offering as an example. This is a satellite delivery service made available by the Canal+ Group. TNTSat offers a DTH alternative which is available to 100% of the population and can receive all the French DTT platform channels. Satellite is a solution to bridge the
Once satellites are up and running, services are available to the whole population in the footprint. Satellite reaches areas where DTT can’t easily access mainly due to the high cost of deployment, landscape challenges or frequency issues.
The deadline for Africa’s digital switchover set by the International Telecommunications Union is 2015 but Limmer believes that the majority of the African countries will undergo some challenges to meet this deadline.
“Research from Balancing Act done in October 2010 reported that more than 30 countries have not even started initiating the digital migration process. Over the past month we have been in contact with African government spokespersons from various major sub-Saharan countries and it seems like some of them have set 2013 as objective; others are still in a planning, preparing or testing phase.
“Ghana, for example, is already quite advanced. They have initiated an advertising campaign with a logo and are attempting to create general awareness among the population by promoting digitalisation and its advantages for those in the urban and remote areas,’ comments Limmer.
An advantage of satellite is that services like new digital channels, high definition television (HDTV) and interactive services can be added easily while DTT is subject to spectrum limitations.
SES covers Africa with seven satellites and has another four to launch in the next three years. It is currently working with a partner to build a new fibre-quality, satellite based global Internet backbone for telecommunications operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) across the African continent.