4 July 2006
Sentech has announced plans to rollout Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in time for the 2010 World Cup. The upgrade is expected to cost about R1-billion over the next five years.
DTT is a digital technology that provides a greater number of channels and better quality of pictures and sound.
The company is optimistic that it will play a major role in the 2010 World Cup by ensuring that South Africa’s analogue broadcasting infrastructure is upgraded to a digital-ready terrestrial system.
Punted to be the most significant revolution television has yet seen, Sentech spokesperson Bongi Potelwa said DTT would give users access to a multi-channel and multi-platform viewing experience.
“It is aimed at average TV viewers; and will finally bring true convergence into living rooms,” she said.
Test transimssions have already been broadcast from Sentech’s main broadcast tower site in Brixton, Johannesburg.
Frans Lindeque, Sentech’s acting COO, said digital TV sets were to “increasingly” become integrated with fixed and mobile broadband networks, allowing viewers to switch easily between watching television, surfing the internet, or doing online shopping.
“DTT thus opens the way to combine the pay-per-view services available on the internet with the simplicity of television.
“A primary benefit of DTT that is sure to delight consumers will be the clearer, sharper pictures provided without interference and ghosting that some residents of built-up areas or hilly terrain sometimes experience.
“It also offers a wide screen format and multiple language offerings per channel,” Lindeque said.
He indicated that Sentech would first upgrade its network and duplicate the current analogue network channels on a digital system.
Sentech anticipates the first phase of network upgrades to take two years, with digital migration commencing in 2008.
“Most of the 220 sites needed to broadcast DTT to 92 percent of South Africa’s population are already in place and only need upgrades to become fully digital.
“Once that process is complete, DTT and analogue systems will be run side-by-side [a dual illumination process] until South Africa is ready to switch off analogue transmission,” Lindeque said.
He also explained that the analogue infrastructure which dated back to the launch of television in South Africa in the mid 1970s, had become increasingly expensive to repair and “DTT provides a timely answer to this problem.”
Consumers will need a set-top box costing about R500 to decode the signal, even for public broadcasting service and free-to-air channels.
“Although the cost of the set-top boxes should reduce significantly over the next five years, they will still need to be subsidised if the main aim of reaching the masses in a relatively short time [four to five years] is to be achieved.
“It is possible that incentives will be provided to electronics companies to establish set-top box manufacturing facilities in South Africa,” Lindeque said.
This, he said would contribute to a reduction in the cost of the set-top boxes.