SA, along with the rest of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region, is migrating from the analogue broadcasting signal to digital as required by the International Telecommunications Union.
The move will provide better quality pictures, space for more TV channels and other services such as mobile TV.
The region adopted a European technology called digital video broadcasting-terrestrial (DVB-T) about four years ago, and SA has been testing the technology for the past two years.
But there has been a public outcry after the Department of Communications said in April it would also evaluate the Japanese standard, called integrated services digital broadcasting-terrestrial (ISDB-T), and might use it instead of DVB-T. The Japanese standard has been adopted by Japan, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Bolivia.
Last week, the Brazilian government, broadcasters and equipment manufactures went to great lengths to clarify all the criticisms levelled against the ISDB-T technology, also explaining its suitability to Africa.
Brazil is energetically marketing ISDB-T to such Sadc countries as Kenya and Tanzania.
It hopes if more countries adopt the technology, then the price of set-top-boxes (similar to pay-TV decoders) will decrease substantially. ISDB-T decoder costs just more than 100 from 400 in 2007.
But according to the Brazilians, an entry-level decoder costs 50.
To sweeten the deal, the Brazilian government has promised to partly finance joint ventures between South African companies and Brazilian companies to assist with the manufacturing of the decoders and to invest in laboratories, training and in broadcasting content. Brazil claims its technology is robust and can provide additional services that can increase access to broadband, especially in Africa where broadband penetration is very low compared to other developing nations.
The Brazilians have modified the Japanese standard by adding their own software called Ginga, which allows for free mobile-TV and internet services.
It has been renamed ISDB-Tb.
SADC ministers in charge of the digital broadcasting technology review are expected to make a final decision at the end of the month.
Source: Businessday South Africa Image: aerialconcept.co.uk