After many delayed starts and renewed deadlines, South Africa is well on its way to begin phasing out analogue TV channels for one year in March.
In his State of the Union (SoNA) address on February 11, President Cyril Ramaphosa He expected the process to be completed from province to province by the end of March 2022.
“Completing the digital migration is critical to our ability to effectively capitalize on the tremendous opportunities offered by technological change,” he said.
The country’s digital migration process has experienced many delays and South Africa ultimately missed the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union to complete the process.
A new deployment model was developed by 2018 to speed up the process. The cabinet approved the new model in October 2018.
The then communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane The revised delivery model would result in the government withdrawing from its involvement in the procurement of set-top boxes, as well as the storage, transportation and installation of the equipment.
The new model for implementing the broadcast digital migration project takes a market-based approach through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry.
In February last year, the Portfolio Committee on Communications expressed concerns about the slow implementation of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Directive by the Ministry of Communications.
“After the committee learned that the program to switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television in South Africa was five years behind schedule and only 511,368 of approximately 4.7 million qualified households were connected to the digital decoders,” said the chairman of the Portfolio Committee On Communications Boyce Maneli.
In the meantime, Ramaphosa assured that the process of licensing high-demand spectra was at an advanced stage.
“We hope that the ongoing legal disputes in the licensing matter will provide legal certainty and will not unduly delay the frequency auction process.”
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) published the long-awaited and long-belated invitations to apply for ITAs for the spectrum of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and the Wireless Open Access Network.
However, some cellular operators have legal issues.
The telecommunications groups MTN and Telkom have turned to the courts to scrap or review parts of the agency’s auction process.
MTN appealed to the Gauteng Supreme Court in January denying Icasa’s decision to split operators into two categories: MTN and rivals Vodacom in Tier 1 and Telkom, Cell C and others in Tier 2.
Newswire Reuters previously reported that Tier 1 operators under this classification would be excluded from an opt-in auction round, undermining their ability to secure access to the 3.5 GHz radio frequency spectrum band.
In December, Telkom moved in court to suspend Icasa’s spectrum licensing process because the respective ITAs were fundamentally flawed as they covered the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequency bands used by television broadcasters and likely not available for a long period after the auction .
Telkom further argued that the decision to proceed with auctioning the 700 MHz and 800 MHz under the current terms set out in the ITA would be extremely detrimental to Telkom as it would likely cement Vodacom and MTN’s dominance in the market at disadvantage of smaller players such as Telkom.
Icasa rejects the legal requests.
“We believe this licensing process is balanced and there is no room for a setting that takes all winners into account,” said Icasa chairman Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng back then.
Icasa also assured that there was no need to be alerted by the lawsuit, as the high-demand spectrum licensing process would continue as planned in March unless a court order was issued to delay the process or stop.