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Sentech DTT infrastructure on track

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Sentech is on track to meet its deadlines for the roll-out of South Africa's Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) – but the project could still go off-course if all players don't reach an agreement on set-top boxes. 

A multi-party, multi-factor engagement can lead to market confusion regarding the responsibilities of various players in the process, says Frans Lindeque, Executive Digital Services at Sentech.
"Sentech is responsible for the upgrade and provisioning of the main signal distribution infrastructure for the DTT rollout," he explains. "The project is driven by various phases of which the first two phases will be completed by March 2008.
"Digital switch-on is scheduled for 1 November 2008 and the switch off date is set for 1 November 2011."
However, he points out the, although Sentech is involved as a member of the DMWG (Digital Migration Work Group), it is not responsible for the specification or distribution of set-top boxes.
Decisions on pricing, specifications, distribution, licensing and programming need to be made by parties such as the broadcasters, the Department of Communications, the Department of Industry and ICASA (Idependent Communications Authority of SA).
Sentech also serves as a member of the STB advisory work group, which has made recommendations to government regarding the framework and technical specifications of the STBs.
Regardaing the digital switch-on, the first phase will cover the country's main metropolitan areas while the second phase will ensure coverage of 80% of the population by 2010, enabling people to view the FIFA 2010 World Cup games in digital format.
The success of the digital migration process is also based on financial commitment by government, says Lindeque.
"We have received the necessary funding for the first two phases and are confident that further funds will be granted," he says.
"However, Sentech will require additional operational funding during the three-year dual illumination period which will see analogue and digital transmissions running at the same time, in order to allow viewers to acquire suitable digital receiving equipment."