The deadline for the digital terrestrial television (DTTV) switch-on is still 1 April 2012, although standards have still to be set and manufacturing contracts awarded.

Deputy Minister of Communications Obed Bapela chaired a meeting of SMMEs on Friday to discuss ways in which this sector could be involved in the DTTV roll-out.

He says concerns were expressed about the deadline, but sees no reason why it should not be accomplished.

“We are positive,” he says. “We are on the road and will be able to roll out DTTV on 1 April, with a single broadcast still scheduled for December 2013.”

The journey to DTTV has been plagued by delays throughout the approval process and there is still no final specification for set-top boxes (STBs) agreed upon.

Deputy Minsister Bapela says the current delay involves approval from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), with various parties disagreeing on some parts of it.

The Department of Communications (DoC) is currently mediating on the issues causing the delay and hopes to be able to present a specification to cabinet within the next two weeks.

Thereafter, the specification will be made public and manufacturers will be able to get involved.

“By April, STBs will be available and tested,” he says.

South Africa’s poorest households – about 5-million of them – will receive subsidised STBs when DTTV is rolled out next year.

Currently, the funding model still needs to be finalised, says deputy minister Bapela, as cost will only be known once the specification is gazetted and manufacturers appointed.