Pretoria — The Department of Communications and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) have launched the Set-Top Box (STB) decoder standard (SANS862:2012) for free-to-air digital terrestrial television.
The launch took place on Wednesday at the ICT Indaba, which is currently underway in Cape Town.
SANS862:2012 outlines the minimum performance requirements related to the production of STB decoders. The overall objective is to accelerate South Africa's transition to free-to-air digital terrestrial television coupled with the strengthening of economic growth in the country.
The announcement took place prior to the planned 'switch-on' of digital broadcasting in September 2012.
The STB decoder operates in conjunction with an analogue television receiver minimising additional expense for the public while providing good quality video and sound.
The standard ensures that the final STB decoder is low maintenance and includes an access control mechanism to prevent decoders from being used outside South Africa.
During the launch, Communications Minister Dina Pule expressed her appreciation for the longstanding relationship between the department and SABS.
She reiterated both parties' commitment to continue transforming South African society as the standard protects the public and presents growth opportunities for local manufacturers.
SABC chairman Bahle Sibisi said: "The SABS is in the process of establishing a laboratory to allow manufacturers to test the efficacy of STBs produced in the local market and it's expected to open in October 2012."
The announcement means that South Africa will now comply with the 2006 resolution of the Regional Radio Communication Conference.
The main reason for the migration is to provide additional capacity in the digital sphere that can be utilised to enhance services.
The installation of an STB will also afford the viewers improved sound and picture clarity, offering additional channels to choose from.
High definition, digital broadcasting will no longer be for the privileged minority in South Africa but will be accessible to all South Africans who own television sets.
In 2008, government made a commitment to establish a subsidy scheme to assist households that cannot afford to purchase a STB decoder.
It is anticipated that approximately five million South African households will receive subsidised assistance.