23 October 2009
The set-top boxes that many South Africans will need to watch television when broadcasting goes digital-only will be available at stores throughout the country in the first half of 2010. The government is expected to subsidise 70% of the R700 cost of the units for poorer households.
South Africa is currently in a “dual-illumination” period, with both digital and analogue TV signals available. The digital signal was switched on in November 2008, and the analogue signal is due to be switched off on 1 November 2011.
In order to receive the digital signal after that date, households with analogue TV sets will need to purchase set-top boxes that convert digital into analogue signals.
Speaking in Johannesburg this week, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda said the Cabinet had approved R400-million to subsidise around five-million households, with subsidised set-top boxes expected to cost around R300.
“[The] government has already made a decision to support poor TV-owning households, and we are in the process of finalising the details regarding the implementation of the support scheme,” he said.
Once the details had been finalised and the scheme was ready to be rolled out, Nyanda said consumers would be informed of the criteria for qualification and the application process.
Standards, security features
Deputy Communications Minister Dina Pule said that the set top boxes for free-to-air services would have standardised operating systems prioritising security features, interoperability, addressability and inter-connectability.
“These features enable the disconnection of stolen boxes and will reduce the possibility of an influx of boxes not manufactured or approved in South Africa flooding the market,” Pule said.
Nyanda and Pule were speaking at a two-day summit aimed at discussing a set-top box manufacturing strategy that will pave the way for local companies to manufacture the devices.