By Bongani Tshabalala
LADYBRAND-The surrounding towns in the Free State became the first areas in SA to experience digital migration when their analogue television transmitters were switched off on Monday.
The ministry of communications and digital technologies and broadcasters this week began the long-awaited process of moving from analogue to digital broadcasting for TV and radio.
The switch off comes on the back of President 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 the process, which will be done province by province, will be completed by the end of March next year.
The department of communications says it is collaborating with provincial governments to recruit local installers of government-subsidised decoders to accelerate the implementation of the broadcasting digital migration. Decoders are required to convert analogue signal to digital television services.
The switch off, which has already begun in the areas in the Xhariep district municipality on Monday, will be followed by Ladybrand in Mantsopa Local municipality and surrounding other towns.
The department said the switch off in each province will be systematic and in phases, moving from one analogue transmitter coverage area to another, until all district municipalities within the province are completed.
“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,” said communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
She said the release of spectrum will greatly improve connectivity within SA and spur the digitalisation 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,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
She said government has committed to subsidise the estimated three million indigent households those with a combined household income of less than R3,200 per month which are still on the analogue television platform.
Television viewing households that do not qualify for fully subsidised government decoders have an option of buying new integrated digital television sets that have the decoding capability built-in. Existing commercial satellite decoders are also considered suitable as a migration alternative to subsidised decoders.
It is expected that the phased switch-off of analogue TV transmitters will move to Northern Cape in April, and to North West, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape in May.
It is expected that the switch off will move to KwaZulu-Natal in July, Western Cape in November, Limpopo in December and Gauteng in January next year.