South Africa aims for 2010 switchover

South Africa is set to begin its switchover from analogue to digital television after broadband network firm Sentech was given the go-ahead to upgrade the country's analogue infrastructure, which dates back to the mid-1970s.

The company's roll-out of digital terrestrial television (DTT) will see South African households being furnished with digital TV sets for the first time, as the country prepares to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup—a tournament that Sentech says demands the newly announced development.

It is expected to cost around 1bn rand over the next five years, with the first phase of network upgrades expected to last until 2008, when digital migration will begin. Sentech has already commenced broadcasting trial digital transmissions from its main site in Brixton, Johannesburg.

Set-top boxes will be required to decode the digital signal and will cost about 500 rand, meaning they will need to be subsidised if the country is to achieve its switchover target of four to five years.

Sentech's acting COO, Frans Lindeque, claimed that DTT "opens the way to combine the pay-per-view services available on the internet with the simplicity of television".

He added: "A primary benefit of DTT that is sure to delight consumers will be the clearer, sharper pictures provided without interference and ghosting that some residents of built-up areas or hilly terrain sometimes experience. It also offers a widescreen format and multiple language offerings per channel."