Altech Opens World Class Factory for the Manufacture of Digital Set-Top Boxes

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
Altech UEC logo

Africa’s first high-tech global facility with the capacity to manufacture more than three million television set-top boxes per annum was opened in Durban by Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie today.

Altech UEC (Johannesburg: ALT), a leading developer of digital technology for the international pay-TV industry, consolidated six buildings on two sites into a single, 13 500m2 state-of-the-art factory at Mount Edgecombe to boost innovation in information and communications technology (ICT) and heighten South Africa’s global competitiveness as it moves to migrate to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

With demand for digital set-top boxes (STBs) in South Africa expected to reach more than nine million as the country migrates to DTT, with a further 30 million required for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Altech CEO Craig Venter said the new factory would drive growth and job creation in line with President Zuma’s economic development targets.

“Our investment in this facility is in direct support of government policy. Not only are we employing people in the factory, but services such as packaging, delivery and installation will create tens of thousands of small business opportunities in the years to come.

“In the process, people will acquire new skills, equipping them for the next wave of ICT innovation and development. The cycle of advancement and wealth creation is potentially endless.”

Venter said crucial to South Africa’s Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy was the creation of millions of new jobs country-wide by advancing the local electronics manufacturing sector.

“Digital migration creates an opportunity to build a globally competitive export sector that is an objective of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

“The economic spin-offs are destined to be huge – from technical support to retailing – while the increased demand for broadcast content, especially regional-based programming, will create more jobs for local content producers and their supply chains.

“New jobs will be created all down the delivery chain, while millions will be able to benefit from better education and communication through new electronic means,” said Venter.

Describing the new building as a “story factory”, Venter said: “The boxes we manufacture here deliver stories to people’s homes. The new generation STBs will enable millions of people in South Africa, Africa and across the world to access digital television – a medium through which they will discover the world around them in all its richness, diversity and endless possibility.”

Venter said ICT innovation, driven by intellectual property, was a “cornerstone of global competitiveness”. There was a need to resuscitate local research and development and while a South African silicon valley might be far-fetched, poverty could only be eradicated by economic growth which depended on competitiveness, he said.

“In a world where everybody has access to the same technological tools, competitiveness depends on how the technology is applied to harness information and create new knowledge. People and countries who can meet these demands are the ones who succeed.”

Venter appealed to government to provide an enabling environment to encourage entrepreneurship with a focus on ICT innovation as this was the only way to resuscitate local research and development Venter thanked Minister Padayachie for the quality and quantity of interaction between the Department Communications and the ICT industry and urged him to continue on this path. “Collaboration between government and industry stakeholders is a must in order for South Africa to reach its job creation and economic growth goals.”

Venter said the migration to DTT was taking place within the bigger context of growth in the ICT industry in general.

Apart from its factories, sales people, products and services, the cornerstone of Altech’s support for both DTT migration and the industry, was skills development and the encouragement of people to spread their wings.

“For South Africa to be globally competitive, we need more than the infrastructure we already have or are planning to build.

“We need a strong core of highly skilled professionals in science, engineering and technology. We need to demystify mathematics and science and take it into the mainstream so that everyone can participate in it on an equal basis.”

To this end, Altech UEC recently opened the multi-million Rand KwaMashu Multi-Media Centre for Learning in KwaZulu-Natal to help children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to master mathematics, science, English and essential life skills.

Commenting on the new Altech UEC factory, Altech UEC CEO, Peter Balchin had the following to say: “The building of the factory is not only to gear up for the anticipated demand for locally produced STBs, but also as part of a wider strategy to enable Altech UEC to extend its manufacturing capabilities and remain a world class digital media manufacturing operation.

“Aligned to this is the fact that Altech UEC is in the process of evolving into a multi-media global business as the industry matures and converges between broadcast and broadband media delivery.”