Comms minister commits to March 2022 digital migration deadline

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Photo source: GCIS)
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Photo source: GCIS)

Minister of communications and digital technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has again committed to “speed up” the digital migration process.

SA’s Broadcasting Digital Migration road has been painstakingly slow, with controversies and department leadership changes bogging down the process even further.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the digital TV delays, promising action in the next month.

Ramaphosa told the nation that government would “begin the phased switch-off of the analogue TV transmitters from next month [March]”.

He added: “It is anticipated that this process, which will be done province by province, will be completed by the end of March 2022.”

Among the spectrum frequencies that the Independent Communications Authority of SA wants to auction are the 700MHz and 800MHz bands, which are currently occupied by the much-delayed digital migration.

Ndabeni-Abrahams, whose department is charged with the project’s implementation, has reiterated the commitment to see through the analogue switch-off in March 2022.

The minister noted this is in line with the pronouncements made by the president during the SONA that the long-awaited national switch-off process of analogue television transmitters, which will see the country move away from analogue to digital broadcasting, will get under way next month.

Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications this week, Ndabeni-Abrahams said the analogue switch-off will be implemented incrementally in provincial phases, starting with the Free State in March this year.

Committee chairperson Boyce Maneli said the committee has noted the minister’s commitment. However, the committee wants to be provided with a clear project timeline so that it can monitor progress and hold the department accountable.

Maneli said in light of the briefing, the committee will need to revise its programme in order to give priority to the digital migration project.

“Although we take note of the fact that the department is still awaiting finalisation by Cabinet of the project rapid response team and the governance structure, the committee will continue monitoring the project.”

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