Communications Minister Radhakrishna "Roy" Padayachie has confirmed South Africa will adopt the digital television standard known as DVB-T2 and the country will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013.
Speaking to the media in Midrand, Padayachie says cabinet has adopted the preferred standard of DVB-T2, an upgrade of DVB-T and agreed to December 2013 as the new switch-off date with a view to allow the period between 2013 and 2015 to address the challenge that may arise towards the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline of 2015.
That's after a decision taken in November last year to overturn former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda's proposed costly adoption of an alternative technology to be used for SA's migration to digital TV.
IN November communications ministers of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), including SA, announced that the region would continue implementing the European technology - Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T).
The decision will bring relief to the local technology sector, which had threatened court action to undo Gen Nyanda's decision in April to order a review of alternative Brazilian-Japanese technology, know as ISDB-T - even after trials for the European standard had been carried out, after Cabinet approval four years ago.
The industry, including broadcasters M-Net and e.tv, has since spent more than R250m testing the DVB-T technology and upgrading systems accordingly.
Padayachie said that at a 2006 conference in Geneva, where the ITU Region 1 Geneva ITU GE06 Agreement was signed, a 2015 deadline for the migration from analogue to digital television was set.
He said South Africa will switch-off the analogue signal in December 2013.
"That means that everybody who has analogue television right now will still be able to receive pictures because the signal will be operative right until 2013.
"When December 2013 arrives South Africa has given a commitment that we will switch off the analogue signal and therefore means that the existing television boxes that we have which is analogue will no longer be able to receive and transmit the pictures because there is no analogue signal. From December onwards the only signal that will be available will be digital signal," he said.
Padayachie said government will equip poor families who cannot afford to buy digital television to receive pictures in their analogue television sets.
He said: "We have to equip those families who possess an analogue TV with the capacity to convert to digital signal back to analogue so that they can receive pictures. After 2013 we will transmit a digital signal to the home and this little box that we will subsidise will receive the digital signal and then convert it back to an analogue signal and take picture back to an analogue television.