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Ntshavheni sets ‘final’ analogue switch-off deadline

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 09 Dec 2022
Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has determined 31 March 2023 as the country’s analogue switch-off date.

This, in an effort to finalise government’s much-delayed broadcasting digital migration programme.

In a media briefing this morning, Ntshavheni said that after evaluating household set-top box registrations, the department was able to determine the final analogue switch-off date.

She further said the Constitutional Court’s (ConCourt’s) June judgement held that notice must be provided to industry and affected parties before the analogue switch-off date is pronounced, and take into account representations received regarding the matter.

“To give effect to this part of the ConCourt judgement, I hereby give notice to the industry and affected parties of my intention to determine 31 March 2023 as the analogue switch-off date and the end of the dual-illumination period.

“Industry and affected parties are invited to make substantive representations, either in support or opposing the proposed date.”

According to Ntshavheni, the Government Gazette of her pronouncement has been published today, adding that industry players have been sent letters notifying them.

The submissions must be made by 27 January 2023, she said. “Analogue switch-off must be concluded without further delay in order to enable the telecommunication network operators to decongest the networks with the deployment of 4G and 5G networks.

“The quality of communications is degrading across the country and some areas have completely lost network coverage, pushing for a speedy conclusion of digital migration.

“If we delay analogue switch-off, we are going to have degrading of the broadcasting services as well.”

After missing the International Telecommunication Union-mandated June 2015 migration deadline, Ntshavheni’s department has made numerous attempts to conclude the country’s digital migration process.

However, litigation and numerous other challenges saw the process being delayed for more than a decade. The latest blow to the digital migration process was the ConCourt’s decision that halted the 30 June analogue switch-off date.

Migrating from analogue to digital TV is an important step towards making available the sub-1GB (700MHz-800MHz) radio frequency spectrum bands occupied by the analogue TV signals.

These spectrum bands were licensed during telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s “historic” spectrum auction in March.

Access to high‐demand spectrum will help mobile operators provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services. On the consumer front, it would mean making affordable data available to firms and households.

For government, the allocation of spectrum has been key to its economic reforms, with the national fiscus benefitting in excess of R14 billion from the proceeds of the auction.

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