According to the South African National Department of Communication, the country will shift from analogue terrestrial television to digital television broadcasting in 2021.
The department has announced this information while addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. The department specified the different phases, saying it would continue to implement the distribution of digital set-top boxes, which will accelerate the process, as they constitute part of the reason for the delay to digital migration.
The department claimed, “Progress towards finalizing the Broadcasting Digital Migration programme has been very slow, primarily due to the poor pace of household migration to digital platforms.”
At the moment, South Africa is five years behind the International Telecommunications Union deadline to migrate from analogue to digital transmission. Although digital television is operational in the country, with full national household coverage comprising 88% terrestrial and 12% satellite broadcasting, only 1,109,965 registrations for digital migration subsidies have been recorded, with a massive 3,590, 035 households yet to register.
The delay in migrating customers to digital terrestrial and satellite TV was affected by the following issues; the encryption debate, high decoder production costs, fundamental deficiencies in project management structure, poor visibility of public broadcaster to lead migration awareness, private sector broadcasters influence based on commercial interests.
The department also stated that it needs to clear the decoder stock currently kept in the SA Post Office warehouse and drive mass availability of affordable digital TV decoders. Cabinet has approved 2021 as the switch-off year for analogue broadcasting, which means that the roll-out of these decoders must be done, especially to poor and subsidized communities.
As soon as the digital switch over is completed, this will boost the economy’s competitiveness, create jobs opportunities, and help bridge the digital gap in the country.