South Africa is part of a small list of countries that have failed to even get out of the starting blocks regarding digital migration, according to an international body, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.|South Africa is part of a small list of countries that have failed to even get out of the starting blocks regarding digital migration, according to an international body, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
In 2006, South Africa and other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa committed to meeting an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline to switch over to digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting on June 17 2015. The ITU is a specialised agency tasked by the United Nations to focus on information and communication technologies.
Digital migration involves shifting broadcasters from analogue to digital signals, and the process is key for opening up more frequencies and faster mobile broadband services.
South Africa’s digital migration process has however been stalled by disagreements among broadcasters. Also, President Jacob Zuma’s splitting of the former Department of Communications last year reportedly resulted in a turf war among ministries over the control of the digital migration process.
Subsequently, the ITU lists South Africa among nations that have failed to even start a digital migration process. South Africa then joins non-starter digital migration countries which include Armenia, Bangladesh, Belize, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Turkey.
Namibia and Turkey are reported to have started their digital migration processes in the meantime. However, Sanjay Acharya – who is the chief of media relations and public information at the ITU – told Fin24 that the ITU’s data on non-starters is based on regular updates from administrators in each country.
Consequences for countries that have missed the ITU digital migration deadline include having to deal with signal clashes between analogue and digital, Acharya said.
“They will have an obligation to immediately resolve any harmful interference that may occur, either affecting neighbouring countries that have implemented the transition or emanating from other sources,” he told Fin24.
“And they will have abrogated their right to international protection,” Acharya said.
The risk of signal interference in South Africa is highest along the country’s borders. ITU data already indicates that Mozambique has completed its digital migration process, while the process is ongoing in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The ITU data further states that Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi are the only African countries to have confirmed that they have completed their digital migration projects. These countries have joined the likes of Western Europe, the US and Australia in achieving digital migration success.
Meanwhile, other African countries where the ITU says the digital migration process is still ongoing include: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Government speaks up
Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi released a statement this week regarding the ITU deadline.
News24 reported that Muthambi conceded that South Africa will miss the ITU’s digital migration deadline, and that there is a risk of signal disruptions along South Africa’s borders.
However, in a bid to reduce the risk of signal interference, Muthambi said she had signed agreements of cooperation with Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. The minister added that Namibia and Zimbabwe are finalising their agreements with South Africa.
Muthambi further said that there would be no “major negative impact” on South Africa’s analogue television services near the country’s borders.
“The digital migration project management office is hard at work to ensure that set-top boxes are manufactured and delivered to complete the migration process,” said Muthambi.
Set-top boxes are the devices needed to decode digital signals for analogue television sets.
Earlier this year, Fin24 reported that 26 bidding organisations have each won a piece of South Africa’s R4.3bn set-top box tender.
State agency the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa is tasked with ensuring that 5 million poorer households receive the subsidised set-top boxes.
Prepare for Digital TV migration
The deadline for the digital migration is fast approaching. JACQUES BENTLEY, Skyworth Southern Africa Sales Manager, lets us know what we can expect.
By now you’ve probably heard about the impending digital migration for South African broadcasting. Initially, this shift from old-school, analogue technology to newer, more efficient digital technology was set to take place in 2015 but the deadline for a national migration has been pushed out several times. With our neighbours Namibia and Botswana blazing ahead with their own digital transformations, the pressure is on for our own government to push forward to a fully digital South Africa.
But what does this overdue switch really mean for you and me?
What is digital migration?
Basically, the process involves moving over from an analogue transmission to a Digital Terrestrial Television/Transmission (DTT). We currently use analogue technology, transmitting video and audio through analogue signals. The drawback of this traditional broadcasting format is that the colours, sound and brightness are heavily impacted by the quality of the signal, resulting in a less-than-ideal snowy effect, and your TV deciding to randomly fade or ghost.
Digital TV, on the other hand, boasts crystal-clear image quality and excellent sound without interference because of its land-based network of TV transmitters that broadcast digital signals. This kind of technology also allows viewers to access a wider range of channels with different programmes.
Why is it happening?
Apart from the fact that everyone wants clearer sound, more channels and an enhanced viewing experience, the conversion to digital TV also has a far-reaching goal that ultimately
aids developing nations like our own. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the objective of Broadcast Digital Transition (BDT) work is to help developing countries with their smooth journey from analogue to digital broadcasting, including terrestrial TV, mobile TV and sound broadcasting. In turn, this means that we can enjoy new broadcasting services as well as an allocation of the digital dividend.
When is it taking place?
June 2019 is D-Day for all countries to have completed their digital migration. Our Communications department is determined to meet this international deadline and has implemented a specific DTT war room to ensure that all the boxes are ticked, and they can deliver on time.
The first province to undergo the digital migration was the Free State back in August, where digital Set-Top Boxes (STBs) were launched in Senekal. Essentially, STBs decode digital signals for old, box-style TV sets and the government aims to distribute these devices to about 5-million poor households, so that all citizens can enjoy prime TV, despite their financial situation. In fact, Skyworth is one of the chosen suppliers of these set-top boxes and is proud to be a core part of an all-inclusive transition to digital.
What can you do about it?
While the government has agreed to subsidise cash-strapped consumers with STBs, the only guarantee is that the digital migration is upon us and it is our responsibility to digitally transform our homes in order to meet the requirements. This means that you’ll either need to invest in a digital-ready TV or purchase your own STB to work with your current TV’s analogue signal. Whichever route you decide to go, you can look forward to exceptional viewing entertainment in the comfort of your own home.
5 things you should ask about buying a new TV
With so many technological advancements that cater to various needs, and endless options on the market, buying a new TV for your home can be pretty daunting. JACQUES BENTLEY, Southern African Sales Manager at Skyworth, offers a few tips when buying a new TV.
Given the role a TV occupies in the home – providing entertainment, relaxation and a window to the world for the whole family – it’s not a purchasing decision to be made lightly. Not to mention the fact that you’re likely to spend a rather large sum of hard-earned dough in the process. Fear not – we’re here to help you decide. Here are five important things to think about before you swipe that plastic to ensure your new TV will bring nothing but joy into your home (ok, and maybe a couple of disagreements on what to watch).
- Size matters
If you’re a fan of action-packed movies or nail-biting sporting events, you already know how important the size of the screen is. Consider the space into which your new TV will fit, and take measurements of the wall area or cabinet it’s going to sit on to make sure that you’re being practical about its size. How many people will be watching the TV at the same time? Now opt for the largest screen size that will fit comfortably in your lounge (and your budget). Generally, anything between 55 and 65 inches is a great all-round pick according to price, performance and how close most families sit to the TV.
- Is it digital-ready?
South Africa’s digital migration is upon us and by June 2019, you’ll either need a digital-ready TV that can transmit digital signals or a Set-Top Box to decode digital signals for your old, box-style analogue TV set. The benefits of investing in a digital TV include crystal-clear image quality, excellent sound and a wider range of channels. Ask the sales assistant to show you their range of digital ready TVs when making your selection.
- Does it have a 4K screen resolution?
Resolution refers to the sharpness of the TV picture, usually in terms of horizontal lines of pixels. Ultra HD/ 4K sets have four times more pixels than current Full HD screens. That’s as many as 2 160 horizontal lines, or 3 840 x 2 160 pixels. The result? Super-sharp, detailed and lifelike images, even on large screen sizes. For this reason, a 4K resolution is becoming increasingly popular because it’s a much better choice if you want to future-proof your investment – Skyworth’s G6 model was created with this in mind; it’s basically an Android TV made for the future.
- What will you be using your TV for?
Apart from the obvious activity of chilling out to watch your favourite shows, what else do you want to be able to do with your TV? Will your kids be using it to play games? Will you be streaming shows on it? All of these preferences will impact the specific features that will attract you to buy a certain model over another one, so it’s wise to do your research, either online or in store, before you say ‘yes’ to the device. Also, look out for at least four HDMI ports at the back of the set as these tend to get used up very quickly, especially if you are using accessories like a sound bar.
- Does it include cutting-edge technology?
From Google Voice Assist, allowing you to speak to your TV, to rich connectivity via Bluetooth, selecting a TV that has advanced capabilities makes for a smarter TV and one you aren’t likely to need to replace in a few years’ time. With Android System 6.0, an easily updatable operating system, the G6 TV is your best bet when it comes to constantly upgrading your TV without forking out money every time.