The Brazilians have been punting their digital standard – ISDB-T – as the best option for SA when it switches over to digital. In 2006, SA decided to implement the European DVB-T standard and started testing the signal in preparation for the switch from analogue broadcast to digital signal.
However, in April, the Department of Communications controversially decided to review the choice, and started looking at ISDB as an alternative. So far, industry has spent about R300 million on tests and equipment, and there are concerns that a switch so late in the game could cost the country millions more – and result in the international November 2015 deadline being missed.
Brazil claims its standard is more robust than the European one, and offers several other benefits, including mobile television without additional infrastructure and interactivity. However, industry says switching standards now would delay migration by up to three years, and require further investment in infrastructure.
Industry's concerns include the fact that ISDB-T has only been rolled out in countries that broadcast on a 6MHz band, and the Southern African Development Community uses the 8MHz band. South African commentators have said that this will require new technology to be developed, and tested.
However, at the end of this month, the Brazilians will put their claims to the test. Andre Barbosa Filho, the special advisor to the chief office of the office of the presidency, says a Brazilian delegation will test ISDB-T on an 8MHz band at Sentech, at the end of this month.
Barbosa Filho says the aim of the visit is to prove that the Brazilian standard can work on a different frequency, and to show that the technology is immediately available.
On Monday, ITWeb witnessed a simulated environment in which digital television was being broadcast on the 8MHz band, and electronics manufacturers in Brazil have indicated that switching frequencies is not a problem, and adds no extra cost to the infrastructure.
Barbosa Filho says the tests will be run by a Japanese and Brazilian delegation with assistance from two European companies, Italy's Screen Service and Germany's Rohde and Schwartz. ISDB-T is a modification of the Japanese digital standard.
Flavio Cesar, advisor to the secretary in the Ministry of Communications, says the testing will include four standard definition channels, as well as 19 audio channels. He is confident the tests will prove that ISDB-T has better coverage than DVB-T.
The tests will include single frequency network trials, which is necessary to prove that overlapping signals do not cause interference, and are expected to last several months.
* Nicola Mawson is being hosted in Brazil courtesy of the Brazilian Embassy in SA.