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Sono eyes R2.5bn TV deal

Jun 03 2012 11:36 City Press

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Johannesburg - One of football icon and businessman Jomo Sono’s companies is among the frontrunners to land the multi-billion rand contract to provide poor households with set-top boxes for the country’s digital migration.

Government is spending almost R2.5bn on the project and Jomo Sono Investments is among the 36 companies that meet the department of communications’ minimum criteria, according to spokesperson Siya Qoza.

Sono’s Jomo Cosmos was recently relegated from the Premier Soccer League, but the 56-year-old may score with government’s subsidising of digital terrestrial television to five million households.

Besides being a club owner, Sono, arguably the country’s best-ever footballer, has interests in petroleum, hospitality, mining, property and vehicle tracking.

Other businesspeople and companies that are also lined up for the tender include DiViTech, which is chaired by Chancellor House trustee Salukazi Dakile-Hlongwane.

Last year DiViTech started shipping its locally designed set-top boxes to East Africa.

Qoza said the contract would be awarded by the end of July.

The department insisted it would meet the global switch-off date of June 17 2015, proposed by the International Telecommunications Union.

Communications Minister Dina Pule recently reassured Parliament that the country’s target date of December 31 2013 would be met.

Qoza said the department chose to publish the list of companies for openness and transparency.

“It’s not an indication of people we prefer. At this stage we can’t say whether it’ll be one or more companies,” said Qoza.

The next step now would be to call them individually, assess their capacity and conduct factory inspections, said Qoza.

The migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) will see countries switching off their analogue systems.

But the troubled SABC has warned it might incur a cash flow shortfall of R836 million if it invests in the DTT roll-out.

It projects that it will not deliver the performance committed to under the guarantee if it invests in DTT.

It has emerged that the public broadcaster is expected to spend about R6 billion on the digital technology in the period up to March 2015.

The introduction of DTT will allow the broadcaster to unveil new channels, improve viewing quality and diversify content.

Digital broadcasting will allow the SABC to produce a fully fledged parliamentary channel and two other channels reflective of the country’s provinces.

Spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the public broadcaster was raising the flag on DTT by informing government that if it invested in DTT it would have a shortfall. “DTT is not an SABC project; it’s a country project.”

The Independent Communications Authority of SA has commenced with the process to finalise the DTT regulations, which will be gazetted next month.

The SA Bureau of Standards is expected to finalise specifications to which locally manufactured set-top boxes will be built by the end of the month.

According to the department, the manufacturing process is expected to create an estimated 23 500 jobs.

Pule said the DTT network roll-out stands at about 60% with a network roll-out of more than 74% expected to be achieved by September.

The remaining 26% will be rolled out 15 months later.

Only extremely poor households will be subsidised by government.

The department will also subsidise nearly 3 000 Northern Cape households whose signal will be affected by the Square Kilometre Array, which was awarded jointly to South Africa and Australia with New Zealand. 

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