DTT to launch commercially this December


The commercial launch of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in South Africa is scheduled for December this year, according to a speech delivered by Minister of Communications, Dina Pule, at the DTT “Proof of Concept’ launch in Kimberley, Northern Cape on 3 October.

Said Minister Pule: “December 2012 will mark the start of South Africa’s dual illumination period in which both analogue and digital signals will be available. Our signal distributor Sentech has currently achieved DTT network coverage of 61% of the population. Sentech is on track to reach 80% coverage by March 2013 and 88 percent by December 2013. The remaining 12% will be covered by satellite technology.

“Digital migration is all about television and our various broadcasters are ready to roll. The SABC is fully prepared to transmit SABC 1,2 and 3 on the DTT network. It will also have a 24-hour news channel available for the DTT launch. Both SABC and e-tv are collaborating on a free-to-air partnership. e-TV and M-Net are ready to launch on the DTT platform and are awaiting approvals on ICASA regulations and tariff structures.’

The Minister stressed that DTT will revolutionise the television industry in South Africa. “As you know today we are in the midst of the Square Kilometre Array territory and we’ve decided to showcase our proof of concept launch on DTT in an area where it will be particularly difficult.

“Today, like the rest of the world we are in the process of migrating terrestrial television broadcasting from analogue to digital technology, as prescribed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2006.

“The Cabinet approved the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy in 2008. Today’s migration process is reliant on a number of role-players at it is multi-layered. It includes the following processes: DTT Policy and regulation review; manufacturing of set-top Boxes (STBs); distribution of STBs; the subsidy of ownership scheme; and the signal distribution network rollout.’

Minister Pule described the country’s Migration Plan as a policy and framework within which digital migration should take place in the country and noted that South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that will utilise the DVB-T2 transmission standard, which will allow for the launching of new services.

In February this year Cabinet approved the STB and scheme for Ownership. Government will provide a 70% subsidy towards the cost of the STBs to the five million poorest of the poor TV owning households.

The Minister continued: “In keeping with our mandate, we will ensure universal service and access by providing broadcasting services through the digital migration process that promises to enhance diversity and access, especially for the previously marginalised. All South Africans will benefit from and afford to move from analogue to digital television in line with world standards.

“One of government’s key priorities is job creation. Digital migration creates an opportunity for South Africa to build a globally competitive export sector that will create jobs and grow the economy. The manufacture of STBs has the ability to unlock the potential of the electronic hardware manufacturing sector and stimulate job creation.

“South Africa would then be well positioned to provide technical assistance as well as training and capacity building to the African region. This would give South Africa the much needed influence as a technology leader thereby creating more commercial opportunities. This in turn will open-up opportunities for small medium and micro enterprises (SMMES) for digital local content development and job creation.

“We envisage that 800 jobs will be created in the manufacturing industry; 20 000 youth will be trained in the installation and maintenance of STBs and ultimately four to six thousand jobs will be created here.’

The government envisages 4,000 call centre operators to be employed to deal with queries relating to the STBs. The South African Post Office will have to employ an additional 500 staff to assist with the distribution of STBs.

“The launch of digital television will also free up space for the introduction of more television channels and the content industry had the ability to create more than 10 000 jobs.

“It is intended that at least 24 000 job opportunities should be created in all parts of the country within 12 months of the rollout of digital migration. We also intend on focusing on rural and underserviced areas to ensure that these job creation opportunities are spread throughout the country.’

Minister Pule said the Department is currently assessing the outcomes of the RFP (Request for Proposal) for STBs, which closed on 14 September and intends awarding contracts to manufacturers by the middle of October. The first deliveries of STBs will take place at the end of November 2012.

“The SA Post Office’s vast distribution network is geared up to assist with the distribution of STBs to the indigent. South Africans who don’t qualify for the STB subsidy will be able to purchase their STB from commercial retail outlets. USAASA (Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa) will place STB orders with manufacturers on behalf of the Department of Communication and facilitate payment after STBs have been delivered at SAPO warehouses. The draft DTT Regulations have been released for public comment and are awaiting approval from ICASA.

“The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) will have its STB Conformance laboratory ready this month. This will ensure that STBs from the various manufacturers are in line with South African specifications. The Department of Communications has allocated R10 million to fund the Conformance Laboratory. A consumer awareness programme has also commenced.

“The road to digital migration has been a long and arduous one. However, the end is in sight. South Africa is a leader on the African continent in digital migration as visits by Kenya and Malawi in the last two months indicate. We are also expecting visits from Nigeria, Mozambique and Angola who are keen to understand the challenges we face. Our Post Office is also launching a commemorative stamp to mark this momentous occasion,’ concluded Minister Pule.


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