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Jan 07, 2011

Minister to announce decision on digital TV standard ‘soon’

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Communications Minister Roy Padayachie would “soon” announce the decision made by Cabinet on the preferred digital terrestrial television technology standard.

Padayachie was currently finalising consultations with relevant stakeholders on matters related to government's decision, the Department of Communications (DoC) said this week.

The DoC issued a statement in response to media reports and speculation over government's decision on South Africa's preferred standard, which was required as the nation is on a path to switch from analogue, to digital television broadcasting.

Technology website TechCentral stated that the Minister’s adviser had confirmed that Cabinet had endorsed the European digital video broadcasting terrestrial (DVB-T) technology, at its last meeting of 2010.

In a surprise move in April 2010, the government decided to review its decision approving use of the DVB-T standard, which it had gazetted under the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy, in 2008.

Equipment manufacturers and broadcasters were perplexed by the decision, stating that they had already invested significant capital into migration to the DVB-T technology.

The DoC said it would consider using the Japanese integrated services digital broadcasting terrestrial (ISDB-T) technology, which is used in Japan and South America.

Signal distributor Sentech conducted an ISDB-T trial in cooperation with the Japanese and Brazilian governments in November, to assess the performance of the ISDB-T standard.

South Africa and the world have until 2015 to move from analogue to digital television broadcasting, under an agreement with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), after which the frequencies will no longer be protected.

South Africa had previously stated that it had a target of switching to digital broadcasting by November 2011.

In 2006, all Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries agreed to adopt the DVB-T standard, so as to facilitate a flow of skills and technologies between the countries in the region.

Mauritius has already started its digital migration process and has 70% set-top box penetration on the selected standard.

In choosing a standard, governments were urged to consider price of set-top-boxes, as well as the incentives offered from standards’ proponents. In the South African context, it was understood that Japan and Brazil were pushing hard for the country to adopt the ISDB-T technology.

Governments were also urged to think of their overall long-term objectives, for example if one of the overarching objectives for digital migration is to enable interactivity, then interactive functionality must be mandated, otherwise it could be ignored by the vast majority of manufacturers.

Time was also an important factor, considering the 2015 cut off date. It would be challenging to produce, distribute and sell ten-million set-top boxes after the relevant research and development has been done into DVB-T.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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