South Africa begins to switch off analogue TV

The Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies, together with broadcasters, have started with the phased switch-off of analogue television transmitters in the Free State.

This comes at the back of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement during the State of the Nation Address last month that the phased switch-off of analogue TV transmitters would begin this month.

It is anticipated that this process, which will be done province-by-province, will be completed by the end of March 2022.  On Monday the analogue signal was switched off in Boesmanskop and surrounding towns in the Xhariep District Municipality. This will be followed by Ladybrand and surrounding towns on Tuesday.

The switch-off  in  each  province  will be  systematic and in phases,  moving  from  one  analogue transmitter coverage area  to the other, until all  district municipalities within the  province  are  completed .The department is collaborating with provincial governments and district municipalities to recruit local installers of government-subsided decoders in order to accelerate the implementation of the broadcasting digital migration.

The switch-off of analogue television transmitters process currently underway comes at the back of a reviewed implementation process initiated by Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, with the ultimate aim to eliminate inefficiencies and bottlenecks. As part of the review, the department has since also roped in signal distributor Sentech, an entity within the portfolio of the department, to assist with the management of decoder installations.     

“As it is in the interest of the country that the broadcasting digital migration is completed to free up much-needed spectrum, we are redoubling our efforts to accelerate the project.”     

Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

The release of spectrum will greatly improve connectivity within South Africa and spur the digitalization of economic activities.

“We have adopted an inclusive approach to educate the public about the digital migration project and the options available to consumers, including those television viewing households that do not qualify for the government-subsidised set-top-boxes.”

Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

The government has committed to subsidise indigent households with a combined household income of less than R3200 per month. Decoders are required to convert analogue signal to digital television services. It is estimated that there are more than three million households who are still on the analogue television platform.

Television viewing households that do not qualify for fully-subsidised government decoders – in other words, those that have a monthly income above the stipulated threshold of R3200 – have an option of buying new integrated digital television (IDTV) sets that have the DTT decoding capability built-in. Further, existing commercial satellite decoders are also considered suitable as a migration alternative to subsidized decoders and IDTVs, providing more choices to the consumers.

Local television manufacturers have made these IDTV sets and more variety of decoder products available through major retail outlets across the country. This came after engagement between Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams and local television sets manufactures.

Project timeline estimations for the phased switch-off of analogue TV transmitters by province. Further granular details will be made available as we progress with the planning and implementation:  

  • Free State: March, 2021   
  • Northern Cape: April, 2021  
  • North West: May, 2021
  • Mpumalanga: May, 2021
  • Eastern Cape: May, 2021
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal: July, 2021
  • Western Cape: November  , 2021
  • Limpopo: December, 2021
  • Gauteng: January, 2022

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