Broadcasting Digital Migration Made Easy

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1 Broadcasting Digital Migration Made Easy Preamble Television broadcasting in southern Africa commenced around The analogue broadcasting standard employed was PAL I. As is the case for the rest of the world, countries in southern Africa decided to migrate television broadcasting from analogue to digital to make more efficient use of the available frequency spectrum, which is a scarce resource. International obligations for broadcasting digital migration During 2006 the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) held a Regional Radio communication Conference (RRC-06). In this conference a Treaty dealing with among others digital migration of bands III, IV and V was concluded and all SADC countries became signatories to the Treaty. The conference resolved that all countries of Europe, Africa Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran should migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting services by June What is Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT)? DTT refers to the broadcasting of terrestrial television in digital format. Currently, terrestrial broadcasting in Southern Africa is in analogue format. The SADC region is in the process of planning and implementing migration from analogue to digital broadcasting. What is the difference between terrestrial and satellite television? Terrestrial television uses a network of transmission towers on the surface of the earth to relay the signal across the country. Each transmission tower has a specific area of coverage, and it is the network of coverage that provides television signals across the country. On the other hand, Satellite television broadcasting uses geo-stationary satellite which is in orbit above the earth. The broadcasting signals are sent to the satellite and viewers receive a signal via a satellite dish. A single satellite usually covers a large area. For purposes of digital migration, only people who are receiving their television services via terrestrial transmission will be affected by digital migration, as they are currently viewing analogue transmission, off terrestrial transmitters. However, people who receive NAB

2 their television services via a satellite dish are not affected as they are already receiving digital satellite signals, e.g. DSTV, Top TV and the Vivid platform. Digital Migration Generally, digital migration begins with the switch on of digital broadcasting signals, and the ultimate switch-off of analogue broadcasting signals. During the period when analogue signals have not been switched off, the two signals will be transmitted side by side, and the process is referred to as dual illumination. In order to receive digital broadcasting services during dual illumination and post analogue switch off, viewers will have to purchase set-to-boxes which will convert the digital signals to be received by the analogue television set. Once analogue broadcasting signals are switched off, there will be surplus frequencies which will be used to enhance existing broadcasting services and provide additional broadcasting, and mobile services. Portions of spectrum released once analogue broadcast services are switched off are referred to as digital dividend spectrum. Benefits of digital broadcasting for viewers Digital broadcasting promises the following benefits to viewers: Better quality sound and pictures more channels (additional content) Access to radio Enhanced viewer experience through for instance: electronic programme guide (EPG), sub-titling, additional language options, and interactive services such as weather and news reports. Frequently asked questions What is the difference between analogue television and digital television? In analogue one channel uses a dedicated frequency to broadcast. This is because of the large amount of bandwidth the analogue signal requires. In digital, however, the signals can be compressed therefore allowing for more channels to be broadcast in the same bandwidth as one current analogue channel uses. Why are we migrating from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting? NAB

3 Due to the scarcity of frequency spectrum, there arose a need to free-up some frequencies in order to accommodate additional broadcasting and telecommunications services. What is dual illumination? Dual illumination is the process of transmitting analogue and digital terrestrial signals simultaneously. This is done with the aim of allowing viewers time to acquire set-topboxes or television sets with digital tuners which will allow them to view the digital services. What is a set-top-box? This is a device that connects to an analogue or digital television set and an external source of signal via an antenna, converting the digital signal into content which can then be displayed on the television screen.. Why do I need a Set-top-box? If you are receiving broadcasting signals through an outdoor or indoor antenna you will need to purchase a set-top-box. Without a set-top-box you will not be able to view digital television. You do not need to change anything if you currently receive your broadcasting signal through a satellite dish. What will set-top-box cost? It is expected that the set-top-box would be available in retail at between R570 to R620. The Department of Communications will advise the public on the recommended retail price of set-top-boxes, as soon as they become available. Will I have to throw away my existing television to receive digital broadcasting? There is no need to throw away any existing television set. The set-top-box will allow for the display of digital terrestrial television services on existing television sets. Generally, analogue television sets can only receive Standard Definition (SD) broadcasts. In the future a consumer may want to upgrade.their television set to a unit with an integrated digital terrestrial television receiver that may also have the ability to receive and display High Definition (HD) services as these services may become available in future. When will the general public be able to receive digital television? The general public will only be able to view digital content or programming via terrestrial broadcasting once networks have been rolled out and set-top-boxes or integrated digital NAB

4 television sets are available. It is anticipated that the set-top-boxes will be available to the general public within People who already subscribe to satellite pay TV services are already receiving digital television. What is High Definition television (HDTV)? HDTV refers to a new standard of screen resolution that provides a sharper screen image than standard definition picture. Digital television can be broadcast in both HDTV and standard digital television (SDTV). HDTV content or programming is already available on satellite. What is High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)? This is a compact audio/video connector interface for transmitting uncompressed digital streams. The HDMI connects digital audio/video sources such as set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players, personal computers, video game consoles, and AV receivers to compatible digital audio devices, computer monitors, and digital televisions. Will switching on to digital mean that I can get HDTV? No, it is unclear if HDTV services will be available on digital terrestrial television before analogue switch-off. In future when broadcasters start radiating HD content consumers will need an HD capable set-top-box and an HD capable television set to receive and display HDTV content or programming. What channels will be available as a result of digital switch on? This will depend greatly on how services are licensed by regulatory authorities. In general, all the channels viewers are able to get terrestrially on analogue television will be available on the digital platform. In future more channels will become available once authorised or licensed by the regulatory authority. Will analogue radio be offered digitally? The existing FM radio services are not affected by digital migration. Can I get anyone to install the set-top-box for me? NAB

5 SADIBA believes that the majority of consumers will be able to install the set-top-boxes themselves by utilising the installation manual which will accompany the set-top-box, however, consumers can make use of a local installer to assist with installations. How will I know if I am purchasing a certified set-top-box from retailers? The South African Bureau of Standard (SABS) is currently in the process of finalizing the national standard for the free to air DTT set-top-box. All set-top-boxes in the market will have to conform to the SABS national standards, and will be marked as such. Will my video recorder still work after switchover? After analogue signals have been switched off, VHS video recorders can still be used to play back tapes as before. It will be possible to record the digital channels when converted to analogue by the set-top-box. However, the set-top-box can only convert one channel at a time; therefore you will only be able to record the channel you are watching. We believe in future there will be digital recording devices (PVR s and digital recorders). Currently I cannot get television broadcasting services. Does this mean the status will remain the same even after the digital migration? It is not economically viable for the broadcasting industry to cover 100% of the population by means of terrestrial broadcast. A small percentage of the population will have to make use of satellite signals to get television and radio services. In other words, if you currently fall outside the coverage area of broadcasting services, it is most likely that you will not receive DTT. However, satellite is viable to provide broadcasting services to such areas. My current analogue reception is poor. Will digital transmission improve my signal? If you get a snowy picture with analogue, it is likely that you currently fall outside of the broadcast coverage area, and this will mean you will most likely not get a digital picture. NAB

6 It is important to get a good signal and use a good receive antenna to ensure digital reception in marginal coverage areas. Since I fall outside the terrestrial broadcast coverage area and also stand a chance of not receiving digital content or programming via DTT, what other options do I have? The other option is satellite TV. Currently South Africans have three options for satellite reception, i.e. DStv and Top TV (subscription) and Vivid (free to air). Role-players in the digital migration process The government through the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology (MICT) is responsible for developing the policy for broadcasting digital migration. The policy will be published in government gazette..the government is also responsible for ensuring that funding is available for subsidies to deserving people. Broadcasting signal distributors (The NBC in Namibia) are responsible for rolling out the digital network infrastructure for broadcasters. Regulators The regulatory bodies responsible for the planning control and allocation of radio frequencies, and will issue licences for digital broadcasting and authorisation for content services. Manufacturers will be responsible for the manufacturing of set-top-boxes and ensuring that the manufactured set-top-boxes comply with the minimum set-to-box performance standards. Retailers will be responsible for supplying set-top-boxes at a set price to the general public. Retailers are also responsible for providing accurate information to the public to enable them to make correct decisions when purchasing set-top-boxes. Consumers have to ensure that they have the correct information regarding broadcasting digital migration, and ensure that they have the necessary set-top-boxes to receive digital television. For more information visit NAB

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