There is still much to be done before South Africa can begin its migration from analogue to digital broadcasting, according to E-TV

There is still much to be done before digital terrestrial television (DTT) set-top boxes (STBs) will be ready for use by the general public, E-TV’s chief operating officer Bronwyn Keene-Young, recently told the South Gauteng High Court.

Keene-Young had filed an affidavit on behalf of E-TV which is disputing the legality of a decision made by the Minister of Communications, Dina Pule.

The dispute centres around Pule making Sentech responsible for the conditional access system on STBs, while E-TV said that the STB control system should fall to them and the SABC.

Every household in South Africa using an aerial to receive their TV signal will need an STB to receive the new digital terrestrial broadcast.

While it is expected that TVs will eventually have digital (specifically DVB-T2) tuners built-in, in the interim the STB will be the only way to receive the digital broadcast.

However, there is still much that needs to be done before STBs are in the hands of the general public, Keene-Young said in her argument to hasten the High Court action.

After the dispute between E-TV and the Minister is settled, Keene-Young said the following still needs to happen:

The tender for government-subsidised STBs, which closed on 14 September 2012, needs to be evaluated and awarded;
Contracts with successful companies must be negotiated;
Commencement of manufacturing for 5 million government-subsidised STBs, including creation of the necessary technology and infrastructure, and the training of staff. This alone will take 6–9 months;
Distribution of government-subsidised STBs to the South African Post Office, from where they can be bought;
Design and implementation of means-based subsidy programme to determine which people receive subsidised STBs;
Distribution and installation of STBs in people’s homes;
Media campaigns necessary to educate the public about all of the above.

No migration means less wireless broadband

Roy Kruger, technical adviser to the Department of Communications, previously told the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises that they were aiming to launch the first phase of SA’s migration on 26 and 27 September 2012.

It isn’t clear whether E-TV’s action against Pule will delay these plans. When asked the DoC said:

The Department is continuing with the work to prepare the country for the for digital broadcasting services working with all of our stakeholders.

The implications of the delays in the digital migration, is a delay in the release of the “digital dividend”.

This is the name given to the region of spectrum occupied by analogue TV broadcasts that will be freed for services such as mobile broadband.

In South Africa in particular, ICASA has earmarked the digital dividend for use in wireless broadband roll-outs.

Source: My broadband – Jan Vermeulen