The government in South Africa committed to provide financial assistance to state owned communications infrastructure company Sentech to cover some of the cost of dual illumination. The departments of communications‚ telecommunications and postal services and the Treasury have been in discussions over the funding and Sentech chairman Magatho Mello said that they had promised to find about ZAR 100m in the current financial year.
On the other hand, this means Sentech still has to find an additional fund to cover the cost of the project which poses a risk to its business. Dual illumination is the provision of both analogue and digital broadcasting services during the period of transition from the one to the other. During this transition period‚ which Sentech anticipates will end in 2018/18‚ it will run both networks simultaneously at a cost of about ZAR 140m a year. The main cost was leasing satellite space.
However, government is currently distributing set-top boxes to television owners to enable them to convert the analogue signals to digital but the process has encountered significant delays.
“Due to the delays in launching digital terrestrial television many households have acquired satellite services to access digital services to access digital channels. The terrestrial sector has subsequently declined in size although once launched digital terrestrial television is expected to grow quickly,” said Mamli Booi CEO of Sentech.
Currently analogue TV signal distribution is the major contributor of revenue for Sentech and its future sustainability is intricately linked to the mass uptake of the free-to-air digital terrestrial television service. Further growth of digital terrestrial television would be based on the anticipated licensing of additional broadcasters.