Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi. (GCIS)
Johannesburg - Thousands of households in the Northern Cape will be the first to experience broadcast digital migration in South Africa.
Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi announced on Tuesday that her department plans to launch the registration process for set-top boxes in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) community of Keimoes and Kai Garib on October 2.
Set-top boxes are devices that decode digital signals for analogue television sets, a process that further opens up broadcast frequencies for faster mobile broadband services.
Government plans to subsidise these devices for up to five million poorer households as part of the country’s digital terrestrial television (DTT) roll-out.
And the area around the deep-space SKA project is set to receive 16 000 set-top boxes.
“The SKA area in the Northern Cape was identified as the place where the DTT will start,” said Muthambi in a statement.
“We have set ourselves the target of concluding the migration from analogue to digital here in the Northern Cape by January 1 2016,” added Muthambi.
Muthambi’s office explained that analogue television transmissions interfere with signals received by the SKA telescope project, hence a compulsory switch over in the area.
Households in the districts are further required to visit their local post office from October 1 2015 to apply for subsidised television decoders.
Spokesperson for Muthambi’s department, Mish Molakeng, told Fin24 that the South African Post Office (Sapo) is “more than 100% ready” for the switch over in the Northern Cape.
Other SKA areas part of the set-top box roll-out include Brandvlei, Britstown, Calvinia, Carnarvon, Fraserburg, Groblershoop, Kakamas, Keimoes, Kenhardt, Loeriesfontein, Marydale, Nieuwoudtville, Pofadder, Springbok, Sutherland, Vanwyksvlei, Victoria West and Williston.
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The start of the digital migration process comes after the Gauteng High Court in June ruled against broadcaster e.tv in its challenge of government’s decision not to encrypt set-top boxes.
Disputes over set-top box controls further resulted in South Africa missing a key international deadline in June to complete its digital migration process.