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SA, neighbours agree on digital migration

Written by Nthambeleni Gabara

International relations

South Africa and Mozambique have signed an agreement that will be mutually beneficial to the two neighbouring countries.

The agreement, which was signed recently, aims to minimise potential radio frequency interference as a result of migrating from an analogue to a digital broadcasting system.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, who signed the agreement with her counterpart, Transport and Communications Minister Carlos Fortes Mesquite, said the agreement would benefit citizens from both countries.

“All of us should be proud about this bilateral agreement in that it is for the benefits of all our people. We’ve discussed issues pertaining to the potential frequency spectrum interference as a result of the digital migration programme implementation and of course the main objective was to identify issues of mutual interest on cross border interference in order to establish an amicable solution of addressing challenges as and when they arise,” she said.

Speaking after signing the agreement, Minister Fortes Mesquite said: “As a country, we have been ready for digital migration, but however, because we want to move together with the Southern African Development Community region, we had to wait for some of our neighbouring countries to get ready for this digital migration process in order to avoid potential radio frequency interference.

“We are very grateful to have signed this agreement with South Africa as we believe that this will benefit us in terms of sharing of technical knowledge. We are doing all these because we know that digital migration will bring more opportunities for our people,” he said.

South Africa is in the process of signing and concluding agreements with the Southern African neighbours who were not able to meet Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) 17 June 2015 digital migration process deadline. Countries who missed the deadline are no longer protected against signal interference.

Mozambique is the fourth country to sign the agreement of cooperation in mitigating cross border radio frequency spectrum interference with South Africa. Neighbouring countries that have already signed the agreement are Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.

South Africa’s Head of Digital Migration Programme, Solly Mokoetle, said their discussions also focused on sharing of migration plans, processes to handle frequency spectrum interference and the release of digital dividend’s timing.

He said South Africa’s national digital network coverage comprises Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) transmission coverage of 84 per cent of the population with the remaining 16 per cent to be covered by satellite network.

“The process of rolling out of Set-Top Boxes (STB) is aimed at a period of between 18-24 months once the Minister announces the performance period after consulting the Cabinet based on the potential timelines of the availability of (STBs).”

Director-General for the Mozambique Communication Regulator, Professor Americo Muchanga, speaking through a translator, said their country’s analogue transmission covers 70 per cent of the population, adding that the DTT rollout will commence in the coming weeks with the intention to complete major cities (10) and borderline areas (8) by December this year.

“Different STB distribution plans are being considered awaiting Cabinet decision and dual-illumination will continue for a minimum of two years,” he said.

After signing the agreement with Namibia. While in Namibia, Minister Muthambi attended the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Communications, Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Postal Ministers' meeting. The Minister will sign with Zimbabwe soon. 

Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT)

DTT is a reliable and much cost efficient means to distribute linear television content and has many advantages over the old analogue broadcasting that is still in use today. One of its major advantages for communities is that it clears the analogue spectrum for the delivery of broadband mobile internet and Wi-fi services.

Digital migration refers to the switch from an analogue broadcasting system to a digital broadcasting system and this has been a worldwide move, which is being driven by the ITU since the signing of the GE06 multilateral agreement in Geneva in 2006.

In order to view digital television signals on an ordinary analogue television set, consumers will need a STB. The purpose of the STB is to convert the DTT signal for reception on an ordinary analogue television set.

If consumers haven’t acquired a STB by analogue switch-off date, they will no longer be able to view the existing terrestrial television broadcasting services

The Department of Communication anticipates the rollout of STBs to be completed in the coming 18-24 months so that South Africans can switch off analogue signal.