SA to adopt DVB-T2 digital TV standard

17 January 2011

South Africa will adopt the DVB-T2 digital television standard, and the country’s migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting should be complete by December 2013, Communications Minister Radhakrishna Padayachie said in Pretoria last week.

According to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, DVB-T2 stands for Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial Second Generation, an extension of the television standard DVB-T.

It further adds that DVB-T2 has a higher bit-rate than its predecessor, making it a more suitable system for carrying high definition (HD) signals on a terrestrial television channel. DVB standards are maintained by the DVB Project, an international industry consortium with around 250 members.

While the deadline for South Africa’s analogue switch-off had been extended from its original date of November 2011, Padayachie said the new deadline was still within the decision by the International Telecommunication Union to switch off analogue signals worldwide by 2015.

Set-top-boxes needed

After the December 2013 deadline, South Africans with analogue TVs will need special set-top boxes in order to receive images. “This little box … will receive the digital signal, convert it to analogue and then take it back to the analogue TV so that the images can be broadcast,” Padayachie explained.

The government would subsidise set-top boxes, but only for the “poorest of the poor”, while those who fell above a certain income band would be expected to buy them at full cost.

Padayachie would not speculate on how much the set-top box would cost, saying it would depend on the capabilities the box could deliver.

Manufacturing, export opportunities

The digital migration process could serve as a catalyst for revitalising South Africa’s electronics manufacturing industry, Padayachie said, adding that the there could be opportunities for exporting the set-top boxes to other African countries also busy with digital migration.

According to the DVB Project, 14 Southern African Development Community countries had accepted DVB-T, the main digital standard in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Mauritius has already completed the switch-over to DVB-T.

“Perhaps the biggest dividend out of the whole thing is that it will start liberating spectrum currently being used in the broadcasting of signal … This opens up the opportunity to have more channels,” Padayachie said.

DVB-T2 had the capability to give viewers access to 14 channels using the same amount of spectrum. Not only would the increase in the channels give viewers a wider range to choose from, but it would also stimulate the production and creative industries, Padayachie said.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews