State out of set-top box pro­gramme

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Bekezela Phakathi Par­lia­men­tary Writer phakathib@busi­nesslive.co.za

The gov­ern­ment will no longer be in­volved in the pro­cure­ment, ware­hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and in­stal­la­tion of set-top boxes, says com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane.

The gov­ern­ment will no longer be in­volved in the pro­cure­ment, ware­hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and in­stal­la­tion of set-top boxes, says com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane.

Set-top boxes will be re­quired af­ter dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion to de­code the sig­nal for TV sets with­out dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The gov­ern­ment had ini­tially com­mit­ted to sup­ply more than 5-mil­lion sub­sidised set-top boxes to low-in­come TV own­ing house­holds.

How­ever, the pro­cure­ment process has been ham­pered by le­gal bat­tles and cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

The gov­ern­ment has said fewer set-top boxes may be needed be­cause of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances re­sult­ing in many more house­holds us­ing sets with dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The “cabi­net ap­proved a re­vised de­liv­ery model on im­ple­men­ta­tion of the broad­cast dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion project.

The model adopts a mar­ket/re­tail-driven ap­proach through col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ships with the pri­vate sec­tor and in­dus­try,” Mokonyane said at Thurs­day’s post­cab­i­net brief­ing.

“With this ap­proach, gov­ern­ment will no longer be in­volved in the pro­cure­ment of set-top boxes, [or their] ware­hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and in­stal­la­tion.”

The move will save the gov­ern­ment mil­lions of rand and boost lo­cal in­dus­try, which will be pri­ori­tised, the min­is­ter said.

“This pro­vides SA with head­way to­wards the com­ple­tion of the project in a man­ner that is in­clu­sive, af­ford­able and ef­fi­cient, and that re­duces risk to gov­ern­ment. This will push dig­i­tal view­er­ship mi­gra­tion to the 85% thresh­old and be­yond, to­wards switch­ing off all ana­logue broad­casts.”

SA lags much of Africa on dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion and missed the 2015 In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Union dead­line to switch to dig­i­tal. This means the union no longer pro­tects SA’s ana­logue sig­nal and peo­ple liv­ing in bor­der ar­eas could ex­pe­ri­ence sig­nal in­ter­rup­tions.

The de­lay in the mi­gra­tion from ana­logue to dig­i­tal broad­cast­ing has frus­trated many play­ers in the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy sec­tor who are des­per­ate for ad­di­tional spec­trum.

Dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion is cru­cial for free­ing up broad­band spec­trum, which will boost con­nec­tiv­ity. Spec­trum, of­ten re­ferred to as the lifeblood of the wire­less in­dus­try, is the ra­dio sig­nals set aside to carry data, in­clud­ing for mo­bile phones, TV and global po­si­tion­ing sys­tems (GPS).

The lim­ited re­source is largely con­trolled by the gov­ern­ment. The re­lease of ad­di­tional spec­trum will di­ver­sify and boost com­pe­ti­tion in the tele­coms sec­tor and re­duce data costs.

The gov­ern­ment now hopes to fi­nalise the mi­gra­tion process by the end of the 2019/2020 fi­nan­cial year.

Mokonyane said the cabi­net wel­comed the set­tle­ment reached by the depart­ment of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and postal ser­vices and the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of SA on the fu­ture al­lo­ca­tion of high-de­mand spec­trum. “This pro­vides pol­icy cer­tainty.”

The agree­ment is in line with Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s eco­nomic stim­u­lus plan.

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