SA’s digital migration still lags behind, with a minister now defending it

FILE PICTURE: The Sentech, or Brixton, tower in Johannesburg. Picture: Gallo Images/Foto24.

FILE PICTURE: The Sentech, or Brixton, tower in Johannesburg. Picture: Gallo Images/Foto24.

SA’s chances to compete in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and drive future economic growth are being hampered by the delay.

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’ argument that the long overdue migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) would pose a threat to entities such as the SABC is an example of failure to see the forest for the trees, according to local mobile operators.

During a portfolio committee meeting on communications last week, Ndabeni-Abrahams said that completely switching off from analogue TV to DTT had the potential to destroy the public broadcaster, SABC, and its signal distribution company Sentech.

The department of communications missed the 2011 deadline to switch off South Africa’s analogue broadcast signal and we are now one of a few countries in the world yet to switch to DTT.

However, the transition from analogue to digital has already started in the Free State. About a million residents have already applied for the government to foot the bill of set-top boxes, their installation and aerials needed for the transition. The province hopes to migrate completely by 2020.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN SA, said: “It is unfortunate that the DTT migration has been delayed for so many years.

“The use of DTT is far more spectrally efficient than is currently used by analogue TV.

“By adopting DTT, a significant amount of spectrum is made available and that could be used in the provision of mobile broadband and achieving government’s ambition of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR),” she added.

“The continued delay of DTT migration and the licensing of the released spectrum creates substantial challenges on mobile operators to meet customers’ demands in an ever-growing data environment.

“In order to mitigate this risk, MTN has been left with no alternative but to densify the network, by adding more base stations and refarm portions of our existing spectrum.”

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said: “Vodacom remains supportive of government’s digital migration efforts.

“Finalising and completing the digital migration in South Africa is an important factor in driving future economic growth. It will also help accelerate our rural network coverage programme in order to build a more inclusive economy and society.

“While effective data prices have declined by as much as 40% in the past three years, the pace at which data prices could have fallen has been hampered by lengthy delay in completing the digital migration and allocating 4G spectrum,” he added.

jenniffero@citizen.co.za

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