Lack of policy hampers mobile TV

By Damaria Senne, ITWeb senior journalist
Johannesburg, 05 May 2008

A lack of policy direction from the Department of Communications is holding up the commercial launch of mobile phone TV in SA, causing the country to lag behind its African counterparts, says MultiChoice.

Last week, MultiChoice Africa launched DStv Mobile, in Kenya. The service provides a range of TV programming to cellphone subscribers who buy a Safaricom DStv Mobile handset, the company says in a media statement.

This made Kenya the third African country to launch cellphone TV, with Nigeria and Namibia leading the way.

However, it remains unclear as to when MultiChoice will launch mobile TV in SA, despite the fact that the company has successfully tested the service since last year, the company says.

Marilyn Watson, MultiChoice external communications manager, says the company cannot move to commercialise its mobile TV service until the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) issues it with a relevant licence.

The mobile phone TV trials have been successful and the company continues to gather useful data from these tests, she says.

"However, we don't know yet when we will get the licence from ICASA; hopefully it will be in the next few months," she adds.

Last May, communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said in her budget vote speech that the digital migration policy would be published on 1 June 2007.

She also directed ICASA to allocate spectrum for a single network with a possibility of national coverage for the provision of digital mobile broadcasting services.

However, Department of Communications (DOC) spokesman Albi Modise concedes ICASA cannot license broadcasters for mobile TV until the digital migration policy has been gazetted.

The digital migration policy impacts on mobile broadcasting services because the mobile phone TV service is to be provided using Digital Video Broadcast - Handheld (DVB-H).

Modise says the digital migration policy is finalised and the DOC is due to present it to Cabinet in due course.

The economic cluster, which the DOC belongs to, also plans to hold a media briefing in Parliament this week, he says. The minister will provide further clarity on digital migration and other matters at that meeting, he adds.

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