Cabinet's decision to approve the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) policy was providing a framework for South Africa to start the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting, which would start in November this year, Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said on Thursday.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing, she said that Cabinet had also approved the manufacturing of set-top-boxes (STBs), the provision of STBs as a tool for crossing the digital divide, as well as the technical specifications that these STBs had to adhere to.
Households with analogue television sets would use STBs to convert the digital signal to analogue signal.
Matsepe-Casaburri told journalists in Pretoria that the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting would boost the development of South Africa's electronics manufacturing sector, and that a number of companies that could manufacture STBs had already been identified.
The local manufacturers had the potential to manufacture up to 5,6-million STBs a year, which also created the opportunity to establish an export sector. Further, the installation, repair and sale of the STBs would create jobs.
The technical specifications for the STBs had already been developed and submitted to the South African Bureau of Standards for finalisation.
The STBs were likely to cost between R400 a box and R700 a box and the government would provide an ownership support programme to fund up to 70% of the cost of an STB for about five-million of the poorest television-owning households. This would cost government R2,45-billion during the three-year dual-illumination period.
"The process of converting the signal from analogue to digital is made necessary by the developments in telecommunications technologies, which enable a more efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum, as well as better quality pictures as well as sound," stated Matsepe-Casaburri.
The BDM policy was in line with a decision taken by the International Telecommunication Union that all European, African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran, should migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting services by 2015.
In 2007, Cabinet had approved that the digital signal would be switched on by November 1 this year, with the analogue signal to be switched off on November 1, 2011.
The Department of Communications stated that it was on track to switch on the digital signal on November 1, and said it would provide digital broadcasting for 2010, as well as mobile television during 2010.
The Minister said that BDM formed part of government's development agenda in support of government policy priorities such as egovernment, local content development, development of the electronics industry, and job creation, among others.
Digital broadcasting would allow for the provision of services in multiple languages, and would give the public access to government information and services.
Further, a Return Path Capability feature would allow the public to access egovernment information and services, with the ability to fill in and send government forms back to government departments.