Sentech, the South Africa public-owned company that distributes national television broadcasts to South African homes via its signal distribution network, has begun the process of “digital restacking,” in which it will repurpose digital broadcasts for mobile broadband services moved out of “digital dividend” bands.
According to a statement released by the company on Monday, the Northern Cape will kick off the process on January 25, followed by North West from February 2.
The company said it hopes to have completed the digital restacking exercise, which will see all television broadcasts shifted to frequencies below 694MHz, by the end of the year. The move clears the door for ICASA, the communications regulator, to auction off frequencies in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands to telecommunications operators.
Sentech’s move comes despite eMedia Holdings, the parent company of e.tv, filing a lawsuit against Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
eMedia wants to delay the digital migration project because it believes it would lose viewers if the switchover is rushed. The high court is set to hear eMedia’s arguments on March 8.
According to BMA Sources, eMedia CEO Khalik Sherrif said in an interview in October 2021 that the shortest possible time for the project to be completed without causing severe harm to the broadcasting industry is 15 months. Anything less, he claimed, would be detrimental to e.tv and other broadcasters and a violation of the constitution’s broadcasting sector.
Ntshavheni, on the other hand, is pressing ahead with the project, committed to completing the analogue switch-off by March 31.
“Viewer television signals will be disturbed for up to six hours during the frequency change configuration process at each transmitter site. Disruption dates for each town will be up on the Sentech website and social media pages.”