Industry awaits DTTV information

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 02 Apr 2008

The SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) digital working group has received no information about the specifications for digital terrestrial TV (DTTV) from which the standards must be developed, says chairman Linden Petzer.

He, along with industry, is awaiting more information from the Department of Communications (DOC) about plans and strategies that would help them gear up to meet the switch-on deadline of the DTTV signal on 1 November.

"So far I have received nothing. I don't know what's going on. If they [the DOC] think that a D-Book or manufacturing strategy can be developed within 30 days, it is totally unrealistic," he says.

In terms of South African law, the SABS is the only body that can set a standard and is charged as the custodian of such standards.

Fathoming the link

Just before the Easter long weekend, the DOC issued two tenders. The first was for the development of a "D-Book" which will be an overarching technical manual. The second was to develop a manufacturing strategy for set-top boxes (STBs) that will convert the digital signals for screening on a standard TV set.

The closing date for the tenders was 28 March and both have extremely tight deadlines for deliverables.

Petzer says he has yet to fathom the link between the D-Book and the manufacturing strategy on the standards.

"How long it will develop the standards is difficult to say, because the SABS has a very strict protocol on how it is done. A lot depends on the information we are given and this includes things like abbreviations and definitions," he says.

Impossible deadlines?

Murison Kotze, managing executive of Tellumat's electronic manufacturing division, says he is also puzzled over what the DOC has in mind as a business case for the STBs.

"A lot depends on the amount of risk that we have to absorb. Will we have to manufacture, distribute and resell the STBs by ourselves, or is there something else in mind?"

Kotze says there are so many variables at play that it is almost impossible to predict with any certainty what could happen. Among these variables are the design of the units, the data packets that have to be incorporated and then what standards are to be used.

He says it would take Tellumat about four weeks to field-test a prototype STB and another three months to gear up for manufacture and then by 1 November only low volume production of between 1 000 to 2 000 units per month would happen.

"If the DOC needs four million STBs by the switch-off date of 1 November 2011, then about 1.5 million units per year need to be produced, although the peak would be closer to the actual switch-off date of the analogue system," he says.

However, Kotze describes the opportunity for the local industry as "brilliant", but adds that a lot depends on how the details are played out.

Related stories:
Digital migration worries Parliament
DOC issues DTTV tenders
Disingenuous terrestrial TV