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Manufacturing of outstanding digital TV decoders gets under way

Read time 2min 40sec

BUA-Microtronix, owned by BUA Africa, has resumed manufacturing government subsidised set-top boxes (STBs) ordered by the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA).

This was confirmed by the operations director, Shaun Rampursad, who said the company is looking to complete the manufacturing order of more than 300 000 STBs within the next three months, after waiting to receive necessary smart cards for the decoders.

In line with the Broadcasting Digital Migration programme, the South African government promised to supply free STBs to over five million households that depend on social grants and those with an income of less than R3 200 per month. The STBs are required to convert digital broadcasting signals on analogue TV sets.

In 2015, a R4.3 billion tender was awarded to 26 companies to produce the STBs and associated electrical equipment for digital migration; 26 installation companies were also contracted. A year later, the communications ministry, which was under the leadership of former minister Faith Muthambi at the time, placed the first order for 1.5 million STBs with USAASA.

USAASA, which is charged with managing the production and installation of STBs, selected only three companies – CZ Electronics, BUA Africa and Leratadima Marketing Solutions – to kick-start production of the 1.5 million order.

Each company received a purchasing order (PO) for 500 000 decoders from USAASA. In terms of the PO, BUA Africa was contracted to manufacture the direct-to-home (DTH) decoders, while Leratadima and CZ Electronics were contracted to manufacture digital terrestrial television (DTT) STBs.

CZ Electronics has completed its order of 500 000 DTT STBs, while Leratadima has since been placed into liquidation.

Up until manufacturing resumed this month, BUA-Microtronix had only managed 45 092 DTH decoders, according to information from USAASA.

According to CEO Thulani Ngesi, BUA-Microtronix could have completed the order if it wasn’t held back by an issue with smart cards.

Ngesi told ITWeb that USAASA failed to provide his company with the smart cards required to finish the order. However, now that the smart cards have been received, the company is working towards wrapping up the order.

This week, BUA-Microtronix opened its doors to ITWeb to showcase the work at its manufacturing facility located in Strijdom Park in Randburg.

While ITWeb previously reported that BUA Africa outsourced Microtronix Manufacturing to produce DTH decoders, Ngesi clarified that BUA Africa is the main shareholder of BUA-Microtronix, after buying a stake in the company.

BUA-Microtronix has a staff complement of 250 people, employing youth between the ages of 18 to 25 who work at various stations within the facility.

According to Rampursad, the company makes sure to take young people with no industry experience and train them to have the necessary skills required for the job. These employees start from the lowest level and work their way up to become managers and line supervisors.

An employee places components on a circuit board.
An employee places components on a circuit board.
In addition to producing circuit boards for set-top boxes, BUA-Microtronix also has contracts for circuit boards for electricity smart meters.
In addition to producing circuit boards for set-top boxes, BUA-Microtronix also has contracts for circuit boards for electricity smart meters.
Technology plays an important part in the set-top box manufacturing process.
Technology plays an important part in the set-top box manufacturing process.
A worker getting a set-top box ready to become the final product.
A worker getting a set-top box ready to become the final product.

 

Final touches before the final product.
Final touches before the final product.
In the box goes the digital migration decoder.
In the box goes the digital migration decoder.

 

Ready to be shipped to the South African Post Office warehouse.
Ready to be shipped to the South African Post Office warehouse.

 * Photographs by Brian Ngobese

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