South Africa

11 years later, South Africa is finally ready to switch off analogue TV

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has set the final date for South Africa’s analogue switch-off – now taking place on 31 March 2023.

In a media briefing on Friday (9 December), minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that industry and affected parties have until 27 January 2023 to make substantive representations either in support or opposing the proposed date, which will be taken into consideration.

Following many court battles – and several changes to the minister in charge of the process – the deadline for the switch-off has shifted many times over the last 11 years, and is way off from the first planned termination date of November 2011.

The country aimed to have 80% digital TV signal coverage in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which kicked off on 11 June that year. Total switch-off of South Africa’s analogue TV signal would follow on 1 November 2011.

While the government dithered with the process and juggled various vested interests from industry, South Africa missed the 17 June 2015 International Telecommunications Union deadline to switch to digital broadcasting before a ‘final’ date was set for March 2022.

This was again delayed, and the department then set a deadline of 30 June 2022 for South Africa’s analogue switch-off; however, this was declared irrational and unlawful by the Constitutional Court in a successful bid by broadcaster, E-tv.

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South Africa’s digital TV migration deadlines — from 2006 to 2022
Deadline Milestone Outcome
31 December 2006 Digital migration strategy delivery Missed
1 June 2007 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy (BDMP) publication Missed
8 September 2008 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy (BDMP) published Delivered late
1 November 2008 Digital terrestrial television switch-on On-time
11 June 2010 80% digital TV signal coverage by FIFA World Cup Missed
1 November 2011 Analogue terrestrial TV switch-off — initial deadline (per Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri) Missed
30 April 2013 Potential analogue terrestrial TV switch-off (per ICASA) Missed
31 December 2013 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Roy Padayachie) Missed
17 June 2015 ITU deadline for analogue switch-off Missed
31 December 2018 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Muthambi) Missed
30 June 2019 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane) Missed
31 July 2020 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Nomvula Mokonyane) Missed
31 December 2021 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams) Missed
31 January 2022 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Ndabeni-Abrahams, affirmed by Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Missed
31 March 2022 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Delayed
30 June 2022 New analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Delayed
31 March 2023 ‘Final’ analogue terrestrial TV switch-off deadline (per Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni) Pending

Meanwhile, during this time, both communication networks and broadcast services have deteriorated, Ntshavheni said, as both operators and broadcasters have been edging into each others’ spectrum to provide services.

“(The) analogue switch-off must be concluded without further delay in order to enable the telecommunication network operators to decongest the networks with the deployment of 4G and 5G networks,” she said.

“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.”

Ntshavheni said the department has already started receiving reports of cross-interference between broadcasting and IMT services, which is something the government did not want to occur at all.

“In this regard, it is important to emphasise that the broadcasters are no longer protected in those frequencies as the protection fell on in June 2015,” she said.

On 25 August 2022, the department reported that it had approximately 244,000 set-top-box installations to complete, excluding new registrations.

Registrations for set-top-box assistance closed on 30 September 2022.

As of 30 November 2022, the department said it now has 185,382 outstanding installations to complete, including the new registrations to the deadline.

“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,” she said.

Read: South Africa to ban analogue TV imports

Artmotion S.Africa

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