Digital migration: Govt abandons plan to buy set-top boxes

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says Cabinet on Wednesday approved a different approach to implementing the long-delayed broadcast digital migration project.

FILE: Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - The government has abandoned plans to buy millions of set-top boxes as part of the migration from analogue to digital television after spending about R10 billion on the project.

The U-turn was announced by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Thursday.

Mokonyane says Cabinet on Wednesday approved a different approach to implementing the long-delayed broadcast digital migration project, opting for one that involves partnerships with the private sector and telecommunications industry.

The plan was shot down as costly and unfeasible when it was first mooted years ago and has now been ditched. The government will no longer buy, store, transport or install set-up boxes.

Mokonyane says the new approach will save money on a project that has already cost R10 billion and would have cost a lot more.

“Initially, the estimate was that we’ll need an additional R7 billion, but with the revised model we’ll not even go above R2 billion.”

Mokonyane says set-top boxes currently being kept in warehouses will however still be distributed to poor households in the Northern Cape, North West and areas bordering South Africa’s neighbours.

She says the government believes the number of people needing them is far less than initially planned for but says poor people will still not have to pay.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)