Digital TV switchover postponed in South Africa（2012）
Communications Minister Dina Pule conceded yesterday that the 2013 deadline for the national migration from analogue to digital television might be missed due to delays in finalising policy and government inefficiencies.
"The date (2013) will be affected... we are going to try our best. When we engaged with the manufacturers we realised they (would need time)," she said.
The international deadline for the switchover is 2015.
The national migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) was scheduled to launch in April but the switchover will now begin during the third quarter of the year.
Regulations for DTT to enable broadcasters to apply for new digital channels were outstanding because they were still open for public comment and were expected to be finalised by the end of March, Pule said.
Also outstanding was the national standard for DTT, which the SA Bureau of Standards would finalise and gazette next month.
Set-top box (STB) manufacturers are unable to produce the boxes without the standard. These units will convert digital signals to display a clearer picture on household televisions but the process also frees scarce radio frequency spectrum, allowing more channels for broadcasting purposes.
The department was also without capacity to drive the digital migration and was in the process of appointing skilled personnel, Pule said.
Rodger Warren, the managing director of Altech UEC, the country's largest STB maker, said: "Once the regulations have been promulgated, it is then necessary to finalise the STB standards and from there it will take a minimum of nine months to make STBs and get them onto retail shelves."
Wayne Samson, the chief executive of Ellies Holdings, which is in partnership to distribute Altech STBs for the project, said Ellies would not be financially affected by the postponement but the policy delays were of concern.
"As far as I know you can't manufacture without the specification," he said.
Keith Thabo, the chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components, said small black-empowered manufacturers were ready. "We already have an undertaking with other (larger) manufacturers and have negotiated for space in their factories."
An industry player who did not want to be mentioned said: "We are aware there might be a problem of finance from the government."
The government adopted the second-generation technology of the European Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVB-T2) standard last year. It has set aside R2.45 billion to subsidise STBs for 5 million low-income homes.
The manufacturing strategy and subsidy plan for these units would be presented to the cabinet next month, Pule said, adding that the government aimed at creating about 23 500 direct and indirect jobs through the manufacturing value chain. A tender for the manufacture of the STBs would be finalised in March.
She said Sentech, the state signal distributor, was making "significant progress in rolling out DVB-T2 signal transmitters and by March digital signal would cover more than 60 percent of the population".
An awareness campaign would be conducted in phases across provinces from April. - Asha Speckman