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

This comes after the President’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 was 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 ministry said on Tuesday.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies 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 comes at the back of a reviewed implementation process initiated by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, with the ultimate aim to eliminate inefficiencies and bottlenecks.

As part of the review, the department has since roped in signal distributor Sentech, an entity 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,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

The release of spectrum will greatly improve connectivity within South Africa and spur the digitisation 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,” the Minister said.

Government has committed to subsidise indigent households with a combined household income of less than R3 200 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 R3 200 – 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 consumers,” the Ministry said.

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 engagements between Ndabeni-Abrahams and local television sets manufactures.

Project timeline estimations for the phased switch-off of analogue TV transmitters by province: 

  • 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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