With the switch-on deadline of Novemer 2008 looming – and the analogue switch-off set for November 2011 – South Africa's Digital Terrerstrial Television (DTT) roll-out has some critical deadlines it needs to meet.
Sentech is responsible for providing the main infrastructure for DTT and, according to Frans Lindeque, executive: digital services at Sentech, it's well on track to meet its obligations under the Digital Migration Rollout Plan (DRMP).
"The first phase of DTT switch-on will essentially entail the country's main metropolitan areas with second phase earmarked for completion before the FIFA World Cup in 2010. At that time at least 78% of the country's population will have access to DTT services," says Lindeque.
Sentech's responsibility regarding the FIFA World Cup, among others, includes the provision of DTT channels which will be broadcasting various matches. Additionally, it is planned to transmit key games and the tournament final in High Definition (HDTV) via satellite.
Lindeque adds that Sentech is hoping to make additional channels available for additional match or training coverage during the event.
Prior to the 1 November 2008 deadline, Sentech will also embark on a three-month aggressive testing period which is preceded by the implementation of DTT equipment.
During the switch-on phases there will also be a three-year dual illumination period which will essentially see analogue and digital transmissions being simulcast in order to allow viewers time to acquire suitable digital receiving equipment.
DTT promises a great deal to its viewers. "Although some of the real benefits such as terrestrial HDTV (high-definition television) will only be evident from 2012, South African viewers can look forward to improved quality and the knowledge that we are up with the world's most technologically advanced countries," says Lindeque.
In Sweden, DTT today transmits 38 channels, while the UK's free-to-air service, Freeview is enjoying significant successes and penetration.