Lynn Mansfield, Chairman,
Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (SADIBA), and Executive Advisor, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
As in many territories, broadcasting in South Africa is evolving to cater for digital services as FM spectrum is limited, preventing opportunities for new broadcasters and content. DAB provides long term transmission and network savings, along with new revenue opportunities thus making migration to digital radio a viable option for South Africa.
Setting up the trial
In 2012, SADIBA and the NAB formed a DAB+ trial Working Group with the goal of identifying a broadcasting standard for digital radio. This led to a trial licence being granted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) with State owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech chosen to test the digital radio technology.
The purpose of the trial is to test and evaluate DAB+ against the following criteria:
Technical parameters of the trial
The trial began on 3 November 2014 and consists of two high power transmitting stations in Johannesburg and Pretoria in the province of Gauteng covering approximately 21185km2. The total gross population covered in this trial is approximately 11 million (22% of South Africa’s population). The two stations operate in a Single Frequency Network and will be evaluated separately as well as together in SFN at 2kW, 5kW and 10kW. Eighteen stereo channels are available on the trial, allowing 40 public and commercial radio to participate on a rotational basis to give each broadcaster a chance to trial (A 19th channel will be added shortly.) The trial tested the audio quality from 32kbps to 128 kbps at 48khz sample rate with various broadcasting formats, parametric stereo and data speeds at 8Kbps and 16 Kbps.
DAB+ trial achievements
A report of findings of the Johannesburg portion of the trial showed that the DAB+ trial has so far achieved the following objectives:
Next steps and trial extension
An application for a 2-month trial extension from ICASA has been accepted to complete phase 1 (network verification process) and an application for a new one-year trial licence to complete phase 2 (audio and data testing) and phase 3 (closed user group listening tests and a simulation of a “commercial launch”) of the trial in 2016 is to be made.
Positive steps towards South Africa becoming digital have been made and the next phase is to ensure that a regulatory framework is put in place to enable the licensing of DAB+ radio in South Africa.