Prepare for digital TV

August 5th, 2015
The switch over to digital TV has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade and many viewers are still in the dark as to what they need to prepare themselves for the change. MUZI MAKHAYE, CEO of ABT Africa sheds some light on the benefits of digital TV

The switchover from analogue to digital television has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade but, as the ITU deadline draws nearer, many viewers are still unsure about why migration is happening, what they will need to do in order to receive the digital signal on their existing television sets and what the benefits of digital television will be for them as consumers.

ABT Africa, one of the providers of the set-top boxes that will be required for viewers to receive the new digital signal on their existing TV sets, is committed to providing more than just the necessary technology. It is also committed to informing viewers about the switchover process so they can enjoy uninterrupted television viewing.

Communication about the switch to digital has been patchy and, as a result, many viewers are still uncertain about how this process will affect them.

Our objective as we move closer to the switchover date is threefold. Firstly, we will provide the very best, high-quality digital terrestrial transmission or DTT set-top boxes that will be needed in order to receive digital signal for existing television sets. We will also ensure that stocks of these STBs are available at all of the necessary points during the roll-out, and will provide post-sales support for customers through a national DTT call centre. Finally, through our communications, we will keep viewers fully informed about the roll-out process.

One of the questions most frequently asked about the change to digital broadcast is why is it necessary. The answer is that the new technology will bring many benefits to viewers across all LSMs, the broadcasters and government.

To start with, the digital television signal will provide viewers with CD-quality audio and crystal-clear picture quality, which will make an immediate difference to their viewing experience. It will avail an increased number of channels, offer greater broadcasting flexibility, and enable more free-to-air operators to enter the broadcast market.

The DTT technology also has the capability to deliver information services directly to the user’s TV. For example, local government could, through an e-government services network, notify targeted households about such issues as planned water and or electricity disruptions at specific times.

While these benefits may seem clear, consumers are still uncertain about whether everyone will need a set-top box and, if so, what the cost of these STBs will be.

Everyone with an existing television set that is not digitally enabled will need an STB. This includes owners of wide-screen or plasma TV sets that aren’t enabled to receive a digital signal as in the iDTVs, for instance.

Similarly, DSTV subscribers will need a DTT set-top box (MNet) if they would like to receive the full bouquet of free-to-air television channels. This is because the satellite technology used by DSTV and the digital terrestrial technology that will be used in broadcast television are incompatible and they offer different broadcast services. More importantly, DTT will be a non-subscription service as opposed to the subscription-based DSTV service.

As for cost, government has recently announced that recipients of social grants will qualify for a 100% subsidy when acquiring an STB, although this benefit will be limited to one set-top box per household. Retail prices have not yet been set, and will depend not only on government guidelines, but also on the model of set-top box the consumer chooses.

ABT will be offering two models, an entry-level model called the ABT Zapper and a top model that offers more features and benefits, such as access to the internet, which is called the ABT Zapper Plus. Both are equipped with advanced security features which will enable them to be deactivated should they be stolen. A PVR-enabling dongle, which will be sold separately, will enable recording, rewinding and fast-forwarding applications to users of both models.

As the switchover to digital will be rolled out progressively, ABT will track the roll-out schedule once it has been announced and will ensure that STBs are available in retail stores in the designated areas.

The change to digital will offer an entirely new viewing experience, and ABT is fully prepared to make the switchover an easy and trouble-free experience for our customers.

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