Sentech to focus on digital TV support

2011-04-13 15:48

Johannesburg - State-owned broadband network group Sentech on Wednesday said it would prioritise the roll-out of infrastructure and services for SA's digital terrestrial broadcasting platforms.

Sentech CEO Setumo Mohapi said its focus is the digital migration project.

SA aims to convert from terrestrial television signal distribution to digital.

Sentech said it hoped to upgrade the digital DVB-T signal and accelerate the roll-out of DVB-T2 infrastructure and attain 92% population coverage by the end of December 2013.

The government has allocated R279m for the roll-out of digital broadcasting infrastructure and dual-illumination operations during 2011-2012.

An additional R343m would be allocated for the remainder of the medium-term expenditure framework period.

Sentech earmarked capital expenditure of R993m over the next three years for digital terrestrial television, with operating expenditure at R329m over the same period.

For its other flagship project, the national wireless broadband network, Sentech said it aimed to provide broadband connectivity to underserved rural areas.

It would begin roll-out by the third quarter of 2011.

The government has allocated R450m for the roll-out of a rural broadband network for the next financial year.

Earlier this year, Sentech announced plans to spend R814m over the next three years to build the network. Mohapi set a deadline of five years to get the network built, but on Wednesday he said that Sentech hoped to have the project completed by the end of March 2014.

It expected to spend R241m in 2011/12, R199m in 2012/13 and R374m in 2013/14.

Sentech chairperson Logan Naidoo said the group would play no part in the retail space.

"Sentech is not structured operationally to be in the retail space," he said. The group put its uncapped broadband business MyWireless to bed in 2009.

On Tuesday, mobile industry lobby group the GSM Association said that Sentech was too thinly spread in terms of funding and resources to perform its mandated task.

"Sentech has a lot on its plate at the moment," cautioned Ross Bateson, GSMA's government affairs special adviser.

"They have plans to be a last-mile connector of mobile broadband but they don't have the capacity or the means to invest in that kind of network," Bateson said.

"They need to concentrate on digital terrestrial television. Progress towards (that) is still slow," he said.