Countdown to SA TV historic day

Monday, October 10, 2016

By Nthambeleni Gabara

The countdown to the biggest day in the history of television in South Africa has begun. In less than a month from now, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi will begin the switching off of analogue signal in the Northern Cape, paving the way for digital television viewing.

Minister Muthambi will officially discontinue the old fashioned analogue system on Friday October 28. The moment is set to change the face of television broadcasting in South Africa. Turning off analogue TV signals paves a new era in broadcasting for viewers in the SKA area.

 Over 3, 700 households in the towns of Carnavon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei, Vosburg and Williston have fully migrated to the much awaited digital platform, a clear indication that the old-fashioned analogue transmitters in the core of the SKA area are ready to be switched off.

 The change to digital television signals the dawn of a fully digital age in which everyone can enjoy extra choice of more channels of perfect digital reception. The analogue switch off is the process in which analogue television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television.

The world is going through a television revolution of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting. The advent of digital technologies worldwide and the need to provide more spectrum for modern high broadband telecommunications needs has necessitated the migration from the outdated analogue transmission methods to digital methods.

The efficiencies realised from the digital transmission technology will result in more economic benefits for the consumers and the country at large.

Residents living in the SKA community of Keimoes and Kai Garib in Northern Cape were the first people in South Africa to experience DTT in the country, following the unveiling of the registration process for STBs in the area in October, last year.

Subsequent to this, Minister Muthambi launched the first installation of government subsidised set-top boxes (STBs) in Keimoes in December 2015. Government will be rolling-out subsidised STBs in a provincial phased approach, as it has already started in the Northern Cape and Limpopo.

More registrations are underway in the Free State and Mpumalanga. Poor households who qualify for the government subsidy are urged to register for free STBs in their local Post Office branches.

Registrations will open in the North West, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng at a later stage. Priority is given to the provinces along South African borders in order to minimise the prospects of signal interference with neighboring countries who are ready to deploy mobile communication services in the spectrum currently used by analogue television transmissions.

When she confirmed last year that the country would miss the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)'s June 17, 2015 deadline, Minister Muthambi assured South African television viewers that missing the ITU deadline to migrate from analogue format to digital broadcasting should not be a cause for concern.

The minister’s reason was that, together with her Ministry's Digital Migration Programme Management Office (DTT-PMO), has conducted a risk mitigation analysis which has established that the most immediate television signal interference threat would come from outside the borders of the country.

In an effort to abide by the conditions set by the ITU for nations which failed to meet the migration deadline of not interfering with the digital transmission of their neighbouring countries, Muthambi has signed agreements of co-operation with neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

The purpose of these agreements is to harmonise the utilisation of the radio frequency spectrum as these countries undergo their digital migration to ensure that there will be no interference.

Since last year, Minister Muthambi and her team have been visiting the deep rural areas across the country to educate people about digital migration.

Government has prioritised communities alongside the borderline areas for the distribution of STBs in order to mitigate any potential frequency spectrum interferences.

While the countdown to the end of the analogue era has begun, what is needed now is to continue with the public information campaign to ensure that TV viewers are ready for the change. -