Finally SA launches digital TV signal

South Africans are a step closer towards achieving migration to Digital terrestrial television (DTT) after communications minister Dina Pule launched the demonstration of the signal in the Northern Cape on Wednesday.

Speaking at the launch of the signal, Minister Dina Pule said that the location of the launch was selected given the “unique challenges it will bring in the roll-out of DTT.”

South Africans will officially receive the Digital signal by December this year, marking the start of a one year long ‘dual transmission period of both analogue and digital signals. This period will be to give South Africans the chance to purchase set top boxes, needed to convert analogue to digital signals, before the 2013 deadline.

So far, Sentech has covered 61 percent of SA with DTT signal, and is on track to reach 88 percent by December, while the remaining 12 percent will be covered by satellite.

The minister also had good news for the poor families who might not be able to afford the set-top boxes, saying that the SA government will provide a 70 percent subsidy towards the cost of the set-top boxes to the 5-million poorest TV-owning households. Those above a certain income level will purchase the set-top boxes at full cost.

“In keeping with our mandate, we will ensure universal service and access by providing broadcasting services through the digital migration process that promises to enhance diversity and access, especially for the previously marginalised,” Pule said.

The road towards achieving digital TV migration has been long and treacherous one for South Africa, having been unable to meet its own deadline of November 2011, when analogue transmission will have been switched off.

The journey has taken SA six years, when the country decided to migrate to digital using the European DVB-T2 standard, which has a higher bit-rate than its predecessor, DVB-T, making it a more suitable for carrying high definition (HD) signals on a terrestrial television channel.

The migration will also create over 24,000 new jobs as 800 jobs would be created in the manufacturing industry, while 20 000 jobs in the installation and maintenance of set-top boxes.

While South Africans are preparing for the roll out of the digital signals, their Kenyan counterparts are already receiving the signal in major towns of the East African country, with an internal deadline of December 2012 when analogue signal will be switched off. However, the cost of set-top boxes has been slowing down the migration.

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