|The Great Digital Debate: Sentech Versus Orbicom: An Overview of Satellite Broadcasting|
|Written by Manhando, Susan|
Author: Manhando, Susan
The debate on satellite technology was one of the highlights on the CCMS calender in 1995. It marked one of the initiatives that the University of Natal is moving towards, both internally and externally. Internally, it was a rare occasion and a watershed on the academic level when a human sciences department, CCMS, and a pure science department, Electronic Engineering came together to co-host an event. This is an ideal situation where the relevant scientific\technical aspects are merged with the socio and economic implications that come into play, especially where satellite technology is concerned. On the external level, it was a move in the right direction which promoted an essential link between academic institutions and industry. This initiative also brought together two major and perhaps rival groups, in the area of satellite signal distribution, Orbicom and Sentech.
The launching of the PAS4 satellite over South Africa in August, means that every one in South Africa can receive television and radio signals with the aid of a 90 centimetre dish. Telkom was also present and was represented by Mr Ulrich Schoeman, the Senior Manager of between Orbicom. And Sentech addressed the issue of whether this signal should be delivered through analogue or digital technology or both. An analysis of how the technicalities of analogue and digital satellite technology impact on the consumers in terms of apparent and hidden costs was undertaken during the debate. In defence of why Sentech was taking the analogue route at present, Mr Smuts mentioned that the majority of South Africans would not be able to afford a digital system which costs on average, R4 000, while analogue systems will cost about R 1 500. In terms of the user side, analogue technology is the cheapest option and still provides good quality; is quite reliable; has a large supply of equipment; and since its introduction in 1967, it still enjoys the largest market in the world. On the other hand, Orbicom outlined the magnitude of possibilities that will be ushered in by digitisation. Mr Anderson mentioned the fact that South African will have access to a multitude of channels. Of course this access to a lot of channels will be costly and only a minority will be able to afford access to digital satellite technology. This aspect was not addressed adequately by the debaters. For next few years, a combination of analogue and digital technology will be used by Sentech, while Orbicom. Will continue to pursue the digital road.
Network Infrastructure, Kwazulu\Natal. Telkom. Was there to outline their policy on digitisation. Mr Schoeman mentioned that Telkorn is moving towards digitisation and by the year 2000, their switching and transmission system will be fully digital. Telkom. Was also kind enough to sponsor tea and the cocktail party that followed. The University of Natal Public Office donated some wine.
The event was well attended by persons from different companies that are involved in satellite signal transmission and distribution, the Chairperson of the SABC Board, Dr ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, lecturers as well as students from the surrounding technikons and the University of Natal.