South Africa’s new plan to switch off analogue TV and release mobile network capacity

2022-07-09 13:36:46 By : Mr. Sam Ye

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni says a new date for South Africa’s analogue switch-off will be announced after September 2022.

The Constitutional Court declared the department’s 30 June 2022 analogue switch-off date irrational and unlawful two days before the deadline, setting aside a High Court ruling in the minister’s favour.

E-tv owner eMedia had challenged the department’s original deadline of 31 March 2022.

It argued that numerous households relying on analogue TV broadcasts would be left in the dark if switch-off went ahead.

The Constitutional Court said the minister had failed to give adequate notice of the switch-off. She must also consider stakeholders’ representations when setting the next cut-off date.

In a media briefing on Thursday, 7 July 2022, the minister emphasised that the Constitutional Court’s ruling said she had the power to declare the deadline.

The court said it could not prescribe the process to follow for completing South Africa’s digital terrestrial television migration.

Ntshavheni explained that in the provinces where the analogue switch-off had been completed, mobile network operators could start using network capacity — radio frequency spectrum — that had been freed up.

The order has delayed the release of spectrum in the remaining provinces.

Before the ConCourt’s order, the SABC analogue transmitters in the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, and Northern Cape had already been switched off.

“This enabled Sentech to complete the restacking of spectrum bands for completion of the digital migration in the said five provinces,” said Ntshavheni.

The minister said Icasa would release the auctioned high-demand spectrum for use by mobile network operators in these provinces.

“The release of the spectrum…will enable the mobile network operators to decongest the networks with the deployment of 4G and 5G,” Ntshavheni said.

The remaining four provinces — Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape — will only have their analogue switch-off completed at a date to be determined.

For this date to be determined, the minister said she would first finalise the set-top box registration for needy households.

These set-top boxes (STBs) are decoder-like devices that convert digital TV broadcast into a signal older analogue-only TVs can display.

Viewers only need an STB if they do not already have a digital television set, or use a satellite TV service.

Ntshavheni said the court ruled the new STB registration deadline may take into account opportunities that the government had already afforded for indigent households to register.

The call for applications for these STBs began in October 2015, meaning qualifying households had almost seven years to register.

Taking this into account, the minister will publish a government gazette on Friday, giving notice that 30 September 2022 will be the closing date for applications and registrations for government-subsidised STBs.

The minister said her previous deadline of 31 October 2021 was provisional. The new 30 September 2022 deadline will be final, and no applications will be considered after this date.

“Through this notice, I will also inform members of the public and non-indigent households who are still watching analogue TV, of my intension to switch-off analogue and urge them to purchase compliant digital television sets from the retail market,” the minister said.

After this date, the minister will evaluate the number of new registrations against the progress with installations and start consultations with affected parties on a new analogue switch-off date.

Ntshavheni also provided an update on the progress made in registering and installing government-subsidised set-top boxes (STBs) across the country to support her timeline for the closing of registrations.

The minister provided the figures below to show the number of registrations and completed installations over the past few months:

Nthshaveni said due to the decline in STB applications and registrations in recent months and comparing the end of October, end-March, and end-June registrations, giving households until the end of September 2022 was sufficient.

analogue switch-off Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) Headline Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

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