South Africa will complete its transition to digital terrestrial television and turn off its analogue television transmissions on March 31 2022. So it has now been revealed.
The switch-off will free up critical wireless network capacity, which will allow mobile operators to expand their 4G and 5G networks.
The spectrum auction that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) plans to conclude on March 8 will include these “digital dividend” radio frequencies.
They are also the subject of a court case filed by Telkom, which seeks to halt the auction and force ICASA back to the drawing board.
Telkom claims that expecting them to bid on spectrum when there is no guarantee that it will be available for use is unreasonable.
Mmamoloko Kubayi, the minister of human settlements, has accused Telkom, which is partially state-owned, of holding South Africa ransom.
Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni announced the final switch-off date in a statement issued on Monday, citing paragraph 3.3.1 of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy.
Ntshavheni announced the date despite a pending court case brought by E-tv owner eMedia Holdings, which will be heard in the middle of March.
eMedia has sought a 9–12 month delay in South Africa’s analogue switch-off, claiming that many people will be left without a TV signal.
Apart from the fact that South Africans will be without television, eMedia claims that the loss in viewing will significantly impact its bottom line.
Ntshavheni refutes the notion that anyone will be abandoned. In a statement, the communications department said, “we have effectively achieved digital signal coverage for broadcasters to facilitate [digital terrestrial television] migration in South Africa.”