- Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni announced that the analogue television broadcast signal would be switched off on 31 March 2023.
- Ntshavheni said an average of 49 417 set-top-boxes were being installed monthly, meaning the process would be done in three months at the current rate.
- She warned that the digital migration process needed to be concluded urgently as the quality of connectivity was degrading across the country.
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SA's analogue television broadcast signal in South Africa is expected to switch off on 31 March 2023, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni announced on Friday.
Ntshavheni's announcement sought to bring the long-delayed broadcast digital migration process to a conclusion as the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies pushes to deliver tens of thousands of set-top-boxes (STBs) to remaining households over the next three months.
The process was the subject of a Constitutional Court case earlier this year. The highest court in the land ruled that a previous deadline of 31 March this year was unconstitutional and invalid. The court directed her to determine a new deadline.
During a briefing in Pretoria on Friday morning, the minister said the telecommunications industry had until 27 January next year to make submissions supporting or opposing the date.
"I hereby give notice to the industry and affected parties of my intention to determine 31 March 2023 as the analogue switch-off date and the end of the dual elimination period. Industry and affected parties are invited to make substantive representations either in support or opposing the proposed date," said Ntshavheni.
Ntshavheni said the proposed date was published in the government gazette.
She said by August, the department reported that it was left with approximately 244 000 installations to complete.
"As of 30 November, we have 185 382 outstanding installations to complete. This takes into account all STB registrations up until 30 September. We have been installing STBs at an average of 49 417 installations per month, which implies that we require just over three months to complete installations at the current run rate with the number of registrations that are outstanding," she said.
Ntshavheni said the department would now focus on concluding the migration process, warning that delays would lead to a further deterioration of the network coverage around the country, which could not be allowed to continue for the sake of broadcast alone.
"Analogue switch-off must be concluded without further delay in order to enable the telecommunications network operators to decongest the networks with the deployment of 4G and 5G networks.
"The quality of connectivity is degrading across the country and some areas have completely lost network coverage, pushing for a speedy conclusion of digital migration to allow speedy 4G and 5G deployment. We have already started receiving reports of cross-interference between broadcasting and IMT (information management technology) services, something we don't want to occur at all," said Ntshavheni.
She said the department was in talks with the National Treasury to secure an exemption to the Public Finance Management Act for the SABC to expedite the process. She said once a new SABC board is installed, the department will support the broadcaster in the process.