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Set-top box standard finally set

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The Department of Communications and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) have launched the set-top box (STB) decoder standard (SANS862:2012) for free-to-air digital terrestrial television.

The Department of Trade & Industry identified the manufacturing of STBs as an area to drive local procurement and to continue growth in the SMME sector. The standard outlines the minimum performance requirements related to the production of STB decoders; the overall objective is to accelerate South Africa’s transition to free-to-air digital terrestrial television coupled with the strengthening of economic growth in the country.

The announcement takes place prior to the planned ‘switch-on’ of digital broadcasting in September 2012. The STB decoder operates in conjunction with an analogue television receiver minimising additional expense for the public whilst providing good quality video and sound. Furthermore, the standard ensures that the final STB decoder low maintenance and includes an access control mechanism to prevent decoders from being used outside South Africa.

Expressing her appreciation of the longstanding relationship between the Department of Communications and the SABS, Minister Dina Pule reiterated the commitment of both parties to continue transforming South African society as the standard protects the public and presents growth opportunities for local manufacturers.

“When television was introduced in South Africa in the 1970s, the SABS mark was mandatory in relation to the production of television sets.  Almost 40 years later, the SABS continues to drive quality assurance and standards in the local industry,” comments Bahle Sibisi, chairman of the SABS.

In 2008, government committed to establish a subsidy scheme to assist households that cannot afford to purchase an STB decoder. It is anticipated that approximately 5-million South African households will receive subsidised assistance. High definition, digital broadcasting is no longer for the privileged minority in South Africa but will be accessible to all South Africans who own television sets. The installation of an STB will also afford the viewer improved sound and picture clarity, offering additional channels to choose from.

Significantly, the announcement means that South Africa will now comply with the 2006 resolution of the Regional Radio Communication Conference (RRC-06) hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), as all countries in Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran need to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting services by 2015.

The main reason for the migration is to provide additional capacity in the digital sphere that can be utilised to enhance services.  Capacity is scarce and it is therefore necessary to make efficient use of the resources available for much needed telecommunications and broadcasting services.

“The SABS is in the process of establishing a laboratory to allow manufacturers to test the efficacy of STBs produced in the local market and it’s expected to open in October 2012,” says Sibisi.