Countdown to analogue switch off in Northern Cape

The scheduled switch off of analogue transmitters in the core towns of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) area in the Northern Cape on Friday is a milestone that must celebrated by all South Africans, says the Department of Communications Acting Director General, Ndivhuho Munzhelele.

On Friday, October 28, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi will officially turn off the analogue system in the SKA area and this will signal a mammoth change in the broadcasting space in the country.

It is indeed a humbling experience when one looks at how joyful people are when they receive excellent quality digital pictures on their television screens. The fact that we have successfully discontinued the analogue signals in the SKA area is a clear indication that together working with the private sector, we can make the digital terrestrial television project a reality in our country.

This is a significant milestone to be celebrated by all South Africans, Munzhelele said.

The world is going through a television revolution of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting. Digital broadcasting works by translating sound and pictures into digital data rather than analogue waveforms. The process is key for opening up more frequencies and faster mobile broadband services.

Over 3 700 households in the towns of Carnavon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei, Vosburg and Williston have fully migrated to the digital platform. Residents living in the SKA community of Keimoes and Kai Garib were the first people in South Africa to experience DTT in the country following the unveiling of the registration process for set-top boxes (STBs) in the area on 3 October 2015, by Minister Muthambi.

Subsequent to this, Minister Muthambi launched the first installation of government subsidised STBs in Keimoes in December last year.

The protection of analogue television transmissions ceased as of 17 June 2015 as per the International Telecommunications Union’s resolutions, of which South Africa is a signatory.

Realising that South Africa will miss the ITU deadline, Minister Muthambi assured South Africans that there will be no television blackout beyond the ITU’s deadline to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting.

She immediately initiated a process of signing bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries such as Swaziland, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana to mitigate cross border radio frequency spectrum interference.

Munzhelele said since the ITU deadline, the country has not experienced television blackout or radio frequency interference.

Over 156 countries signed the ITU agreement in 2006 to switch from analogue to digital transmission. The agreement set up a frequency plan for Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. All signatories committed to switch off analogue transmission by 2015.

Munzhelele said the switch from analogue television transmissions to digital will end the harmful interference to the radio telescope operations at the SKA site.

He said once the Minister discontinues the analogue signal on Friday, households in the area will enjoy the benefits of digital quality free-to-air television broadcasts, incorporating all public service channels, including the SABC 24-hour satellite news channel, 404.

Government is rolling out subsidised STBs in a provincial-phased approach and now registrations are underway in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Munzhelele said poor households who qualify for the government subsidy should visit their nearest post office to register for free STBs.

Registrations will open in the North West, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng at a later stage.

Priority is given to the provinces along the country’s borders in order to minimise the prospects of signal interference with neighbouring countries, who are ready to deploy mobile communication services in the spectrum currently used by analogue television transmissions.

Source: South African Government News Agency.