South Africa’s migration to digital broadcasting will drive down prices for consumers, produce 140 new television channels and encourage new broadcasters to rival the existing companies, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) said on Thursday.
This means wider choice for consumers and more opportunities for content providers, as well as better quality pictures.
Icasa will publish today the regulations that prescribe migration conditions for existing TV channels and the assignment of channel capacity to existing broadcasters - the SABC, e.tv and M-Net.
› Policy certainty key to more jobs
› Digital migration to bring more choice
The migration to digital seeks to achieve universal services objectives of fair prices and wider consumer choice. In terms of universal access, Icasa councillor William Currie said that for the first time there would be 100% broadcasting coverage with some areas being covered by digital satellite. The migration will also release radio frequency spectrum suited for the provision of telecommunications services including broadband in rural areas.
"Many of these areas are not currently covered, partially because it’s too expensive at higher frequencies," said Mr Currie.
There would also be sufficient spectrum for more community broadcasters, he said. Mr Currie said allocation of spectrum that would be freed up by the migration was sufficient for three new telecommunications operators, one wholesale open-access network provider and four existing operators.
Icasa will start a separate process regarding the possibility of introducing new broadcasters.
But broadcasters have been warned that they will lose those new channels if they do not fill them up with content.
Icasa would establish a digital TV content advisory body consisting of broadcasting licensees, independent producers and consumer protection and civil organisations. The group would advise Icasa on the most effective way to ensure the supply of digital TV content.
The Department of Communications is also expected to announce the manufacturers for set-top boxes in the coming months, required to receive the digital signal.
South Africa has until June 2015 to switch off the analogue signal.