Advanced Television

South Africa misses DSO again

May 19, 2023

South Africa is now some 12 years behind in its much-promised full adoption of digital television and the switching off of analogue TV signals.

The initial digital switch-over was supposed to happen back in November 2011. The latest switch-over date was March 31st 2023, and the date was again missed. The delays are blamed on multiple reasons including legal actions, political mismanagement and logistical build-out challenges.

Meanwhile, the government has auctioned the (supposedly) freed-up analogue spectrum to the country’s telco operators. But despite the auction the telcos are understandably refusing to pay out their bids until they can access the spectrum.

The country’s former communications minister Khumbodzu Ntshavheni, speaking in December 2022, said: “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 illumination period.”

The minister’s promise had been stymied by the country’s Constitutional Court which ruled that the – then target – June 30th 2022 as the analogue switch-off date “was irrational and unlawful”.

A new minister, Mondli Gungubele, addressing parliament on May 17th, admitted that a new switch-over date had yet to be set.

Not helping is the slow (and some argue near non-existent) roll-out of free digital set-top boxes to poorer families.

South Africa has currently switched off public broadcaster SABC’s analogue TV transmitters in five less-populated provinces, with Gauteng (where Johannesburg is based), KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern and Western Cape (including Cape Town) remaining outstanding.

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