Analogue switch-off delays leave networks congested

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Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

The networks in SA’s economic hubs – Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) – remain congested because analogue switch-off (ASO) has yet to take place in those provinces.

So says communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, detailing the developments of the broadcast digital migration programme this morning.

Ntshavheni revealed that her ministry the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) has concluded the ASO of SABC TV transmitters in five provinces, namely Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

The provinces that have not been switched off are Gauteng, Western Cape, KZN and Eastern Cape, resulting in poor network connectivity with negative impact to the economy. “Five provinces have already been switched off and four have not been switched off.”

According to her, Gauteng and KZN will not decongest until the analogue switch-off. “When we’ve switched off, Sentech takes between a month and six weeks to complete the migration.

“If we switch off by the 30th of June, Sentech will then complete the D2D [digital-to-digital migration or the restacking by the second week of August, and that spectrum will then be released.”

Following the country’s historic spectrum auction process, telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) determined 1 July as the date for the release of the spectrum to the licensees.

She expressed that the release of the spectrum will enable telecommunication operators to decongest the networks through the deployment of 4G and 5G networks across the country.

“South Africans, irrespective of where they live, in recent days, have experienced poor connectivity including on voice calls due to increased loads on the networks.”

Ntshavheni indicated that in the five provinces where ASO has concluded, the DCDT has already completed D2D migration, which is the restacking of the spectrum.

She explained: “In the five provinces, the spectrum below 1GHz to 694MHz does not have broadcasting in it. ICASA will then be able to release that spectrum in these provinces to the telcos.

“The telcos have bought spectrum blocks in the various bands, so they’ll give them that spectrum to use.”

With the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) still to hand down judgement in the appeal matter involving Etv, the minister said they are awaiting the apex court’s decision.

Broadcaster Etv approached the ConCourt on an urgent basis to appeal the High Court ruling that deferred the switch-off deadline from 31 March to 30 June.

Etv, joined by the SOS Coalition, Media Monitoring Africa and now the #SaveFreeTV campaign, is looking to the ConCourt to delay the ASO deadline.

South Africa’s first and only privately-owned free-to-air television station argues that a delay will give sufficient time to complete set-top box installations for qualifying households, to still enjoy free-to-air TV channels and access to vital news and information.

“We are eagerly awaiting the ConCourt decision on the analogue switch-off date for us to conclude broadcast digital migration. This will allow us to release spectrum in Gauteng, Western Cape, KZN and Eastern Cape,” she stated.

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19 Aug
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