The Department of Communications (DOC) today launched the set-top box (STB) SANS862:2012 standard.
This was done in conjunction with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) at the inaugural ICT Indaba in Cape Town.
The SABS in April released draft standards.
Communications minister Dina Pule said the launch of the standards today is further sign of the department's commitment for the digital switch-on to happen by the end of this year.
“Through these standards we are calling on manufacturers to be innovative.”SABS chairman Bahle Sibisi said manufacturers will be able to test their STBs for conformity at a laboratory created by the authority for this purpose.
He added that the next milestone after the launch of these standards is to open this lab by the end of October.
“It will hopefully make the process easier for manufacturers and less expensive.”
A clearer idea of the price of the boxes will be gauged through a request for proposal that the department will finalise and issue in the next two weeks, said DOC director general Rosey Sekese.
Encryption has been a contentious issue over the last few months, according to Pule's digital television advisor Roy Kruger.
He added that the service is being launched as free-to-air and so cannot be encrypted.
However, in the area surrounding the Square Kilometre Array telescope, the digital terrestrial television system will not be used, but rather a direct-to-home system and this will be encrypted.
With regards to the return path, Kruger said the hardware is relatively cheap and simple to install but a policy will be set for the software required. He added that this will not result in the cost of the STBs rising drastically.
STBs are needed by about 10 million households in SA so that the new digital signal can be converted for viewing on analogue televisions. The country is set to turn on digital broadcast around September with switchover within two years of turn on.
SABS standards are one of the requirements for manufacturers to start production. Another issue that still needs to be resolved is STB controls, which should stop decoders made locally being stolen and sold outside of SA.
SA has decided to migrate using the upgraded European DVB-T2 standard, instead of the initially approved DVB-T framework.
Decoders will run on MHEG-5 middleware and will use MPEG-4 to decode standard and high-definition video. Subtitling in all of SA's official languages will also be available, as will an embedded parental control and interactive features.