Govt switches up set-top box installation model

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Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu. [Photo source: GCIS]
Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu. [Photo source: GCIS]

In an effort to accelerate installation of set-top boxes (STBs) for the country’s Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM), Cabinet has approved that decoder installers be appointed at local municipality level.

This comes as SA’s multibillion-rand digital migration project has been beset with continual challenges, including delays as well as STB installers butting heads with the former CEO of the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA).

In September, USAASA acting CEO Dr Mashilo Boloka revealed to ITWeb that over a million STBs are at warehouses dotted across the country, costing government a whopping R56 million per year.

In line with the BDM 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.

USAASA manages funding of the manufacturing process as well as the installation of the decoders, while the South African Post Office is in charge of the storage, registration process as well as the distribution of the STBs processes.

It now appears that Cabinet, the senior level of the executive branch of government, has resolved to let local municipalities take charge of the installation process.

According to Jackson Mthembu, minister in the Presidency, Cabinet was briefed on the status of the BDM programme regarding decoder storage, distribution and installation management.

“This revised delivery model is meant to fast-track the process towards the migration from analogue to digital and therelease of the high-demand spectrum,” said Mthembu in a post Cabinet briefing yesterday.

He also revealed that Cabinet approved the appointment of Mr Newyear Niniva Ntuli as the administrator and accounting authority of USAASA for 24 months.

SA 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.

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