Political will key to rapid digital TV rollout

Cape Town - A faster rollout of digital television in South Africa is dependent on political will, according to Laurent Petit of satellite company SES.

Speaking ahead of the AfricaCom telecoms and technology conference in Cape Town, Petit said a faster rollout of digital TV depended on government’s will to invest. 

“We have clear case studies and concrete evidence of the effectiveness of a digital rollout from places like the UK and France. There is a massive benefit to the whole population,” Petit told Fin24. 

AfricaCom is Africa's largest telecoms, media and technology showcase. It is set to take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre between November 7 to 9.

Petit added that on the African continent there was a high demand for the same quality of services found in the US and in Europe. 

READ: 'Just dump SA digital TV migration'

Benefits to SA from digital television would include high-definition quality and more channels, he said. 

“Terrestrial signals found in traditional TV broadcast tend to be more expensive. There is significant benefits that it is offered by digital TV, including economic benefits, better access to coverage and it becomes quicker and more efficient," he said. 

He added that some African governments were hesitant to rollout digital TV, as they feared to lose control over what is broadcast. 

“Governments think that if they will not be able to control what channels are broadcast over digital signals, but there can be regulation. Digital signal offers a better quality of service,” he said. 

South Africa’s rollout of digital TV had been hampered by delays after an initial deadline of June 17 2015 passed. 

The country’s digital broadcast migration project had been dogged by hold-ups, with the company behind the rollout of set-top boxes even temporarily halting production of the boxes needed to ensure signal to television sets.

READ: SA moves closer to analogue switch-off as minister, broadcasters meet

Set-top boxes decode digital signals for analogue television sets and government planned to distribute these devices to about five million poorer households.

Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo recently met with local broadcasters to meet the new December 2018 deadline to switch off analogue. 

The first phase of the analogue switch-off and migration to digital broadcasting commenced in October last year in the Northern Cape.

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