Budget: DOC plans to fast-track digital migration

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July 2020 is the latest digital migration deadline to which government has committed.
July 2020 is the latest digital migration deadline to which government has committed.

Budget 2019: The Department of Communications (DOC) has once again promised to "fast-track the rollout of the digital migration project".

The DOC noted its plans in the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) document, handed out to coincide with finance minister Tito Mboweni's national budget speech.

The ENE publications are compiled with the latest available information from departmental and other sources, and describe in detail government's expenditure plans over the next three financial years.

South Africa missed the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for countries to complete the full switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The ITU has called on nations to migrate to digital to allow radio frequency spectrum to be freed up for mobile broadband services.

The country's migration date has been moved numerous times, and June 2019 was previously touted as the latest deadline for digital TV.

However, the DOC has now committed to ensure all South African citizens migrate to digital broadcast platforms by July 2020.

In the ENE, the DOC states: "The shift from analogue to digital broadcasting is critical to transforming the communications sector, as it frees up much-needed spectrum for broadband and other modern communications services. Digital broadcasting, therefore, will enable South Africa to adapt to and participate meaningfully in a globalised economy."

According to the department, its new digital migration deadline is in line with the adoption of a new delivery model for DTT, approved by Cabinet in 2018.

The model entails supplying digital set-top boxes to citizens through retail stores rather than directly by government, thereby freeing up government procurement processes, it states.

"The model will follow a phased provincial approach, where targeted public awareness and messaging will be done by the department through marketing and education programmes broadcast mainly on the South African Broadcasting Corporation's television and radio platforms, community radio and print media. Consumer awareness and registration campaigns will also be conducted by field teams comprising volunteers and contracted staff between April 2019 and July 2020.

"In addition, consumers will be provided with call centre support for all decoder installation and other related queries. This service will be administered and operated by Sentech due to its core role in the project. To carry out all activities related to the fast-tracking of the digital migration project, R96.9 million has been set aside over the medium-term in the broadcasting digital migration sub-programme in the industry and capacity development programme."

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