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P r e pa r i n g for the

Altech UEC recently opened one of the worlds most advanced set-top-box factories. South Africa Magazine learns more. By Ian Armitage




echnology company Altech UEC recently opened a high-tech manufacturing facility outside Durban. Director of Manufacturing Jannie Viljoen told South Africa Magazine that it is a world-class electronics manufacturing facility with a manufacturing capacity of over three million digital set-top-boxes per annum. These Set-top-boxes are needed as South Africa and sub-Saharan African countries convert their television signals from analogue to digital transmission (DTT). “From this new hub, we will be able to deliver units to millions of homes across the region as part of the DTT migration programme,” Viljoen says. “We were a company that, through years of organic growth, had set up production in multiple facilities. It was incredibly inefficient. It was time for consolidation, to bring everything back under one roof to improve efficiencies and to give us a platform for further growth. We took the decision to relocate to a bigger premise and we are now benefiting from that.” The Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared DVB-T2 as the digital terrestrial television standard of choice for the region. The target for the switch off of analogue TV transmission being December

World Class electronic assembly capability

State of the art 13,500m2 manufacturing facility in Mount Edgecombe, Durban

We were a company that, through years of organic growth, had set up production in multiple facilities. It was incredibly inefficient



Plastic Mould capability

2013, with DTT signals expected to reach 96 percent of South African households in April of that year. Demand for set-top-boxes in South Africa expected to reach more than nine million, and a further 30 million required for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. In response, Altech UEC took the decision to consolidate six buildings on two sites into a single, stateof-the-art, 13,500 square metre factory in Mount Edgecombe, Durban. The factory is vertically integrated offering advanced electronic assembly, plastic moulding capabilities as well as final integration inclusive of testing and packaging for dispatch. “Our investment in this facility is in direct support of government policy with regards to employment creation,” Viljoen says. “Not only are we employing over 600 people in the factory alone, but local services such as packaging, delivery and installation will create multiple small

business opportunities in the years to come.” The associated economic benefits for South Africa are huge – from technical support to retailing, all components of the value chain will benefit. The digital migration will see the introduction of more channels resulting in an increased demand for especially regional-based programming. This too will create more jobs for local content producers and their supply chains. The story of Altech UEC is remarkable. After the arrival of television in South Africa in 1976, South Africans were limited to four channels. Supporting their partners, Altech UEC has revolutionised television viewing in South Africa. In 1995, MultiChoice launched DStv and Altech UEC was given the contract to supply the digital decoders. Since, Altech UEC has designed and manufactured a number of ‘world first’ products such as the first DualView decoder in

We design and develop digital set-top boxes


2002 and the first Digital Satellite Personal Video Recorder (PVR) in 2005. “We design and develop digital set-top boxes and interactive software solutions for pay-TV and free-to-air operators in South Africa and internationally. We offer our products in satellite, terrestrial, cable, and IP transmission modes; our products range from entry level standard definition set-topboxes to feature rich, high definition personal video recorders, ” says Viljoen. “At Altech UEC we are optimistic about the future. We are prepared for the increased demand for locally manufactured set-top-boxes for the imminent DTT migration programme. “Government is bullish in terms of job creation, so I believe that there will be a lot of support for the manufacturing industry, a lot of focus on ICT to drive job creation and I also believe the electronic assembly industry will see a lot of investment in the next two to three years. “Are we well-placed to benefit? I think so,” Viljoen continues. “What differentiates us in South Africa is our location, experience and capacity. Since manufacturing DStv decoders in our own factory from 1997 we have shipped over 12 million decoders to various locations both locally and internationally. Using over 1.5billion components per annum gives us enormous purchasing power and flexibility with our vendor base. We can leverage in terms of our manufacturing cost – the more volume you get in a facility, the better your cost structures become. “With our design, development and manufacturing capabilities Altech UEC has been very successful in the set-top box market. Expanding our organisation to offer advanced services and systems integration, together with comprehensive after sales support, we are actively in pursuit to dominate on the African continent.” END

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