The Department of Communications (DOC), which is leading SA’s move to digital terrestrial television, has met with industry players to discuss manufacturing set-top boxes (STBs) for poorer households.
About 10 million households will need decoders to continue watching television once the outdated analogue signal is turned off towards the end of 2014. Government anticipates turning on digital broadcast in September.
Government has set aside R2.45 billion to subsidise about 70% of five million boxes for poorer households. It plans to use migration as a catalyst for emerging manufacturers and SA’s flagging electronics industry.
DOC’s request for information aims to understand the local sector and gather information on companies’ ability to manufacture retail and subsidised boxes.
This week, a compulsory briefing on STB box production was held. DiViTech COO Bertus Bresler says about 95 people attended the session, which was limited to four representatives from each company.
Bresler is “delighted” that the DOC is moving ahead with digital migration. He says the level of attendance indicates good interest and should lead to healthy competition.
Government is trying to stimulate local manufacture and design, which is good for the electronics industry, says Bresler. He adds that there are now only a few outstanding issues such as set-top box control, which need to be sorted out, before manufacture can take place.
Thabo Lehlokoe, chairman of Seemahale Telecoms, says “it does seem like there is a concerted effort by the DOC to get the DTT migration programme back on track”.
However, Lehlokoe notes there are “still some substantial hurdles to overcome” such as the timing of the launch, set-top box controls, the finalisation of the STB standard process by the South African Bureau of Standards, and the release of the STB manufacturing strategy document.
“Having said that, the fact that some of these matters have been approved by Cabinet is very good for the industry in general.”
The current request for information seems to be designed to determine the existing manufacturing capacity and assess interest from new potential players in the manufacturing space, says Lehlokoe.
It also opens space for potential players in other areas that companies can benefit from in the migration process, such as aerial manufacturing and installation, which has the potential to create many new jobs, especially in the rural areas, says Lehlokoe.
Communications minister Dina Pule has said migration is also expected to facilitate the entry of about 1 000 small and medium companies into the electronics manufacturing sector. About 23 500 jobs should be created in the set-top box supply chain.
All requests for information need to be lodged by 11am on 30 April.