Millions of rands allocated to faster broadband

2017-02-22 15:36 - Kyle Venktess

Pretoria - Implementing the transition from analogue to digital television is key to boosting South Africa's broadband stakes, according to finance minister, Pravin Gordhan’s 2017 budget speech, delivered to Parliament on Wednesday.

The South African Post Office (Sapo) is set to receive R240m 2017/18 financial year for the distribution of approximately 1.8m set-top boxes, with the amount including the registration of households qualifying for the subsidy. 

A further amount of R176.4m has been allocated to state-owned signal provider, Sentech for expenditure relating to the migration of digital signals over the medium term. 

Spending on these activities is expected to run into R1.3bn over the medium term in the Digital Terrestrial Television sub-programme – which is aimed at turning off the analogue TV signal – freeing up spectrum for faster internet.  

“An estimated 564 319 households are set to receive subsidies and transfers payments for set-top boxes are set to be reduced in 2017/18 due to ongoing litigation,” the 2017 National Budget read.

Expenditure in the broadcasting digital migration programme is expected to decrease over the medium term as a result, from R589.4m in 2016/17 to R304m in 2019/20, at an average annual rate of 19.8%.

“Over the medium term, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services will expand and modernise ICT infrastructure by implementing the South Africa Connect broadband policy, coordinating the migration to digital broadcasting, and implementing the legislative framework stemming from the 2016 National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper,” the National Budget went further to read.

An estimated 41% of the department’s total budget will be transferred to these entities over the medium term to cater for operational expenditure and specific projects such as digital migration.

Government was given until June 2015 to meet the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline to switch off analogue transmitters as part of the broadcasting digital migration project. 

However, the project had been delayed following a court ruling that declared part of the digital migration policy unlawful and invalid, and effectively placed the manufacture of digital terrestrial television set-top boxes on hold. 

As a result of the delay, Sentech is set to continue to maintain both the analogue and digital platforms until the issue is resolved.

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