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South Africa Opts for DVB-T2

January 24, 2011

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South Africa has confirmed it will adopt the DVB-T2 modulation standard for digital terrestrial television (DTT). This follows months of uncertainty in which the competing ISDB-Tb standard was also seriously considered.

DVB-T2 is the second generation modulation standard from the European DVB standards group whereas ISDB-Tb is a variant of the Japanese ISDB-T standard.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprising 15 African states, including South Africa, also recently put forward DVB-T2 as its recommended modulation standard.

South Africa has spent months flip-flopping between apparent commitment to DVB-T2 and ISDB-Tb. However, this latest announcement looks set to stick, with the Communications Minister making clear that this is the final decision. Additionally, this announcement is reinforced by SADC's recent recommendation of DVB-T2.

Whilst the adoption of DVB-T2 in South Africa is a boost for the standard, the wider implications are much greater. SADC has announced support for the standard, and with South Africa's commitment, all 15 Member States are likely to follow; benefitting from economies of scale and the development of local expertise. These Member States represent 25% of the population of Africa and have the potential to influence further spread of the standard.

If DVB-T2 takes hold in Africa, and with recent commitment from India as well, economies of scale could dramatically reduce the cost of DVB-T2 set top boxes (STBs) - currently retailing for around £70. This in turn will drive operators in Europe to migrate from DVB-T to DVB-T2, in order to supply HD services, as new STBs will become more affordable. Currently, only four countries have launched commercial DVB-T2 services, all of which are in Europe - Sweden, Italy, Finland and the UK.

Finally, whilst ISDB-Tb seems likely to have missed out on Africa, it is gaining increasing traction in Latin America, most notably through Brazil's leadership. A number of countries, including Uruguay, have abandoned previous commitments to DVB-T in favour of ISDB-Tb.

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