SA To Reprioritise R1.9-bn For Digital Migration

“To subsidise the provision of these vouchers, R1.6 billion over the medium term is allocated to the Universal Services Access Fund, and R275 million is allocated to the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa to compensate the post office for the administration of the project," reads the ENE document.

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Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) will focus on rolling out SA Connect, implementing digital migration and submitting new Bills to Parliament, over the medium-term.

This was disclosed in the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) document, which highlights plans and projected spending in national government over the medium-term expenditure framework period.

The DCDT says the new model for the implementation of broadcasting digital migration over the medium term includes the provision of vouchers to indigent households for devices that will allow analogue televisions to receive digital signals, and compensation to the South African Post Office for the costs of administering the voucher and distribution systems.

“To subsidise the provision of these vouchers, R1.6 billion over the medium term is allocated to the Universal Services Access Fund, and R275 million is allocated to the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa to compensate the post office for the administration of the project,” reads the ENE document.

A further R100 million is allocated to Sentech in 2021/22 for dual illumination, which will allow the entity to operate both analogue and digital signals until digital migration is fully implemented. As a result, spending in the Broadcasting Digital Migration subprogramme in the ICT Infrastructure Development and Support programme is expected to increase from R312.8 million in 2019/20 to R1.4 billion in 2021/22.

South Africa is late in facilitating its digital migration process.

It’s been over a decade since it was decided that all of Africa’s broadcast companies convert to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The process has however been delayed for many reasons. DTT uses less spectrum than analogue signals and the conversion was meant to free up spectrum for other applications. Spectrum relates to the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communication over the airwaves.

In November 2019, DCDT said the department still has about 800 000 boxes that have not yet reached their beneficiaries.

“On top of that we have about 3.5 million that we have not touched. We are working now on a new model to say what we must do now to fast track the process.”

Communications Minister Stella Ndbeni-Abrahams said a new model is being developed to spearhead the digital migration process.

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