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Namibia gets digital terrestrial TV

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MultiChoice Africa launched the first digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcast system in southern Africa on Friday last week, with the official opening of its transmission station in Windhoek, Namibia.

The system uses the same frequencies as the current analogue transmission, but provides clearer pictures and better audio quality, as well as allowing for six channels to be broadcast on the same frequency as would be needed for a single analogue broadcast.

"The picture is much clearer and the audio is comparable to CD-quality sound, while even if the signal gets weaker, it does not give the snowy pictures seen on analogue systems," says Nolo Letele, CEO of MultiChoice SA.

"DTT also allows for much more effective use of spectrum, which is extremely important, since the world is beginning to run out of spectrum."

According to Gerdus van Eeden, who is in charge of broadcast technology at MultiChoice, technical trials on DTT have been conducted in SA, but only under a trial licence issued by the regulator.

"When the Namibian opportunity arose, we thought it would be the ideal chance to 'get our feet wet` in terms of DTT, particularly since our analogue equipment was reaching the end of its lifecycle," says Van Eeden.

"It would be technically possible to provide DTT in SA as well, although it would require both a large capital input from us and a change in the regulatory environment."

He says the Namibian operation has been a great learning opportunity for the company, and it has demonstrated numerous value-adds, such as interactive services, which can be built in to the operation and will provide a 'stickiness` factor to help with customer retention.

"While it would be an expensive and long-term project, which would have to begin with the major metropolitan areas, we would love to see a policy put in place by the regulator to award us the necessary spectrum in order to begin providing DTT in SA as well," he says.

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