South Africa Selects MHEG-5 as the Interactive TV Middleware for its Digital Switchover

The International MHEG Promotion Alliance (IMPALA), an organization that was set up in 2006 by Strategy & Technology, Cabot Communications and EchoStar Europe to promote use of the MHEG-5 standard outside the UK (note: MHEG-5 is the middleware standard upon which the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial service, Freeview, is based; it was developed and standardized in the mid-90's as part of the DAVIC standardization effort to support interactivity and navigation for VOD services), announced Monday that South Africa, via the country's Digital Dzonga Advisory Council, has selected MHEG-5 as the interactive TV middleware for its digital switchover.

According to IMPALA, following a successful trial of digital terrestrial television that began last year, South African public broadcaster, the SABC, led the process of developing an MHEG-5 profile for South Africa that would meet the unique needs of that country's market. The profile has now been completed and can be obtained from the SABC (http://www.sabc.co.za in the "press and media" section), IMPALA says, while the overall receiver specifications are now also being completed. The MHEG specification includes a platform-wide EPG that is intended to allow consistent listings and on-screen branding, and the profile is also billed as including support for the delivery of a wide range of interactive TV services.

The Digital Dzonga Council is an advisory body that was appointed by the South African government in 2008 to oversee South Africa's migration to digital terrestrial. According to IMPALA, the South African government has taken an "inclusive and transparent approach" to the development and implementation of the digital migration process, and the Council incorporates representation from both the public and private sectors, including government, consumer groups, broadcasters (SABC, e.tv, M-Net), manufacturers, South Africa's national signal distributor (Sentech), and its communications regulator (ICASA). "We selected MHEG-5 because it is cost-effective with lower royalties than other middleware solutions and it is an open standard and not proprietary to any one vendor," Aldred Dreyer, the SABC's technical project manager for DTT, said in a prepared statement. "In addition it uses little memory." Added IMPALA's director of market development, Giri Valliapan: "It is very pleasing to be able to announce that another countrywide project has chosen MHEG-5 as its interactive middleware. 2009 has seen a host of developments for the technology including the IP-based MHEG Interaction Channel and significant HD advances, both now with ETSI for its approval."

Africa