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Sentech offers streaming services, powered by AWS

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South Africansignal distributor Sentech says it is leveraging the computing power of AmazonWeb Services (AWS) to provide streaming services to local audiences.

Sentech is a state-owned enterprise operating in the broadcasting signal distribution and telecommunications sectors and reporting to the minister of communications and digital technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

It provides broadcast transmission services to the SABC, Etv, MNet, community broadcasters and over 150 radio stations countrywide on a daily basis.

It also provides connectivity and infrastructure services to the retail, telecommunications and public sectors.

In 2019, the signal distributor outlined its ambitious plans to expand its service offerings, by rolling out a video streaming platform, as part of its content and multimedia services.

In the first phase of its streaming service offerings, Sentech says it developed a streaming platform currently used by the SABC as well as religious programmes, with plans to expand to other broadcasters in future.

Kopano Thage, Sentech acting chief marketing and sales officer, explains that AWS is one of the state-owned company’s IT suppliers and has assisted Sentech in providing cloud-based streaming solutions.

“As the country went into lockdown level five due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the Easter period which is important for our customers, we were able to develop a streaming service platform for our religious channels, to answer the call of social distancing as the lockdown regulations prohibited congregations from mass gatherings,” says Thage.

In April 2020, AWS announced the opening of its data centre region in Cape Town.

At the time, the cloud giant said the new data centre will enable developers, start-ups and enterprises, as well as government, education and non-profit organisations, to run their applications and serve end-users in Africa, with lower latency, and leverage advanced AWS technologies to drive innovation.

Since then, numerous local companies have plugged into the data centres, includingSA’s official civic engagement platform GovChat, artificial intelligence start-up DataProphet, and bioinformatics tech company Hyrax Biosciences.

With COVID-19 leading to increased uptake of video-conferencing services, AWS has been helping institutions to run their applications on the cloud and deliver virtual services to end-users in Africa and drive innovation.

COVID-19 has forced many educational institutions to resort to remote learning to minimise the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Thage points out that Sentech is in the process of developing a streaming platform that will enable e-learning and access to educational content for learners during this lockdown period.

“We understand the importance of education in our country, most especially providing access to rural and underserviced areas with the view of addressing all citizens within our country that do not have access to streaming services,” says Thage.

“We continue to evolve and develop digital solutions for our customers to ensure relevance in an ever-changing media landscape. Within the COVID-19 era, we have managed to ensure continuity of broadcast services to all our customers, maintaining a high level of service availability while adhering to the regulation of lockdown levels.”

Sentech, he notes, is also playing an important role in SA’s digital migration process. Go Digital South Africa is in the process of taking South Africans to a new era of digital television that also brings more choice of television channels to ordinary people who view free-to-air television as provided by the SABC, Etv and MNet.

These services are currently broadcast in an analogue format. The country is, therefore, moving these services, including regional television services, from analogue to digital broadcasting.

“Our organisation has already rolled-out the Digital Terrestrial Network to enable digital migration of services. We also intend to assist to expedite migration in collaboration with the stakeholders organised by government. The completion of the digital migration would enable the release of the spectrum that is needed to further the connectivity needs of our citizens,” says Thage.

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