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More delays as government announces analogue switch-off dates

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 22, 2023


Cape Town - The Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Mondli Gungubele has announced a two-step process for South Africa's final migration from analogue to the digital spectrum.

Gungubele said the government will immediately switch off analogue services above 694 MHz on July 31 2023, to release spectrum for other telecommunication use.

Step two seeks to temporarily accommodate some of the high populace areas below 694MHz, adding that the switch-off date for this step is December 31 next year.

Gungubele highlighted that there was growing demand for high-speed connectivity, due to the evolution of technology, growing populations and capacity support.

These new dates convey another delay and missed deadline following the previous minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, announcing that March 31 2023, was the final switch-off date.

"We live in an era where demand for high-speed connectivity has grown significantly, due to technological evolution, growing populations and capacity support,“ Gungubele said.

"Spectrum and high-speed telecoms are essential enablers required to support the growth of the ICT sector.

“It is public knowledge that the digital migration process is a national priority given its impact on the release of the high-demand spectrum," Gungubele said.

Gungubele said it was also public knowledge that spectrum has been auctioned to various companies to provide South Africa with faster, affordable and better quality services.

"The analogue switch-off is a critical step that enables the resources spectrum and positions SA for the next generation of technologies.

“By taking this next step we are making it possible for the companies that bought spectrum to finally proceed with investment that can be undertaken," Gungubele said.

He said that they been switching off the analogue network countrywide, with M-Net switching off all their 84 sites, while the SABC has switched off analogue in the Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

“eTV has switched off 30 of their 84 sites across the country,” Gungubele said.

He alluded that the department will continue to work with industry players and Icasa to ensure that analogue switch-off is achieved, spectrum is released and digital migration is finally concluded.

Gungubele maintained that the primary objective of digital migration is to clear the radio frequency spectrum currently occupied by broadcasters to enable the provision of wireless mobile broadband services and other innovative applications.

Set-top boxes (STBs) or decoders will be used in the transition to enable free-to-air broadcasting services to migrate from analogue to digital television,” Gungubele said.