Minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri last week backtracked
on her policy directive that the government would license one company
to provide a mobile TV network, declaring that there would be more than
one licence holder, writes Thabiso Mochiko in Business Report.

If there had been only one network provider, which was expected to be Sentech, all companies wishing to enter the market would have been forced to go through that company.

David Moore, a media analyst at Africa Analysis, said this limitation would have eventually created a monopoly similar to the one faced until recently by the pay television market.

The news will be a relief to companies such as MultiChoice, which has plans to have its mobile TV service available before the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The service could be a new money spinner for the pay television operator.

MultiChoice has been running mobile TV trials for the past two years, in partnership with Sentech and cellphone operators such as MTN.

MultiChoice has so far launched the service commercially in Nigeria and Kenya.

In May last year Matsepe-Casaburri said that mobile broadcasting services would be provided on a single network with national coverage, using the digital video broadcasting- handheld (DVB-H) standard, and the licence holder would operate along open and non-discriminatory principles.

However, Matsepe-Casaburri said last week: "We are not looking into giving one licence on DVB-H."

Jakie Rakitla, MultiChoice's spokesperson, said that the company was "excited and encouraged" by this development. MultiChoice believed various players in the industry should be encouraged to explore these technological opportunities.

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