Free State thrilled to be the first to switch off analogue transmission

Friday, October 19, 2018

Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela on Friday expressed excitement at the province being the first in South Africa to switch from analogue to digital transmission.

The Premier attended the Broadcast Digital Migration (BDM) briefing hosted by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Friday in Pretoria.

“We must make sure that it must not fail,” said Ntombela, adding that a total 117 transmitters, of which 106 belong to the SABC and 17 to E-TV will “definitely be switched off come the end of December”.

Currently, television and radio signals are broadcast on an analogue platform, which requires a large amount of bandwidth to transmit picture and sound information. This limits the amount of signals that can get through at any time.

However, digital signals require much less bandwidth, therefore more channels can be broadcast at the same time, with brighter, sharper picture and better sound.

The Premier said the provincial government is working together with the Department of Communications’ Project Management Office to inform viewers of the impending switch-off and assist in the registration of viewers in all parts of the province.

“We want to make sure that all of them [viewers] must be on board. The Free State community is encouraged to tune in to their local community radio stations and other media platform for more information going forward,” said the Premier.

In addition to announcing the Free State as the first province to switch-off analogue, Mokonyane also announced that South Africa will switch off the old technology by July 2020.

Revised model welcomed

Cabinet, at its last meeting, adopted a revised delivery model for the BDM project.

Industry who had gathered at the briefing welcomed the revised delivery model of the project which now adopts a market/retail driven approach through collaboration with the private sector and industry where government will no longer be involved in the procurement of Set Top Boxes (STBs), warehousing, transportation and installation of devices.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of eMedia group (eTV) Khalik Sheriff welcomed the move.

“The new energy within the Ministry of Communication is giving us impetus that is going to make the process we’ve heard of over the last years, a reality before 2020. I’m here to commit our business to this process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sentech Chief Executive Officer Mlamli Booi said network availability does exist.

“We have provision for network nationally which means that all licensees who have been given a mandate to cover certain areas, can cover all the areas they are licensed to cover,” said Booi.

He stressed that the network is available and able to carry the digital terrestrial signal.

“I’m happy that our customers here are prepared to support the move towards digital. We are excited by the spirit of going digital, we want to run fast as the country,” said Booi, adding that it is costing the country to run both analogue and digital networks.

What is key to the success of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), he said, is content. Sentech is encouraged by customers who have made content available for DTT.

Disposal of analogue TV sets

Meanwhile, Mokonyane said the disposal of analogue TV sets is critical for the uptake of digital TV in South Africa and also for guarding against these obsolete technologies becoming an environmental hazard.

Work on the discontinuation of analogue TVs is ongoing, she said. However, government has also turned its attention to discouraging consumers from buying analogue TV sets.

“In other words, digitally enabled appliances have to be clearly marked with our Go Digital logo,” said the Minister.

The Northern Cape will be next in line to switch-off from analogue. The province is expected to switch-off by 31 March 2019. -