Sentech: briefing

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Communications and Digital Technologies

20 September 1999
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Meeting report

20 September 1999


Dr Sebiletso Mkone-Matabane, Group Executive: Corporate Affairs, stated that Sentech is a state enterprise, but it is operated commercially. This means that it is a public company owned in full by the State. It is licensed by IBA as a common carrier, which means that Sentech acts as a signal distributor for other entities or third parties. The operational integration project, which was created under the 1996 Sentech Act, is almost complete. Sentech has worked to register fixed assets and to refurbish obsolete facilities.

Additionally, Sentech hopes to have the migration of SABC satellite services from analogue to digital completed by October 2000. They also want to look at restructuring Sentech, and they anticipate that the restructuring will take less time than the restructuring of Telkom. They also want to see the public safety and security communications network improved so that there is a specific set of procedures in case of natural disasters like the tornado that hit Cape Town a few weeks ago. One future goal of Sentech is the development of infrastructure in other African countries so that they can expand their services by connecting with partners on the outside. Other future goals include the convergence of technologies, development of the digital terrestrial network, and improving the viability of community broadcasting. Finally, Dr Mokone-Matabane stated that Sentech was a participant in the development of the sector in ways such as the development of women in technical areas.

Mr Kannie Coetzer, Group Executive: Terrestrial Operations, presented the second and more technical half of the briefing. Sentech's terrestrial infrastructure includes 200 terrestrial broadcasting transmitter sites that accommodate most television and radio broadcasters. Sentech has established a large client base made up of members of both the public and private sector. With their signal distribution, SABC2 currently reaches 86% of the population. However, he admitted that there are some places in Southern Africa (such as Swaziland) that are not being covered to a satisfactory level. There are many projects currently in place to resolve the problem.

With regard to satellite coverage, he hopes that there will be support for the movement to full satellite coverage despite the cost element. He stressed that satellites give full and immediate 100% coverage with their use. In fact, there are many TV and radio clients that are already using this option. One such user is SABC.

Some future challenges that Sentech faces include universal coverage, digital technology, and a higher level of public safety. So far as universal coverage, Sentech stated that it is also an issue for the public broadcaster. To move toward a digital future, there is a need to formalise digital technology and policy. Digital technology allows for diversification and convergence of technologies in the market. There needs to be a plan, however, on how to regulate this technology once it is developed further.

There were a couple of points of clarification. One question asked was why people cannot get "e-tv". The Sentech representatives stated that it is difficult to switch the antenna so that it can pick up other frequencies. They agree that it is a major issue that people do not know how to use their own TV's in a way that they can pick up other frequencies. More workshops need to be held to educate people on how to do this.



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