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Digital TV And You

Updated on February 5, 2013

Digital TV And You: What Switching To Digital Means

Digital TV and you takes a look at what having television stations switch to digital sidnals means to you. Is it the beginning of the end for free television? Will television signals being beamed freely through the air give way to cable and satalite signals?

Free television isn't exactly free anymore. Thanks to government regulations, you now have to buy a new "digital ready" television, or a converter box jf you do not want to switch to cable or satalite. But that's not all! You also have to buy an antena that pulls in UHF signals.

We're here to help you make the switch by giving you all of the information that we can on digital television. Check us out before you decide on which way that you want to go.

Digital television (DTV) is the sending and receiving of moving images and sound by discrete (digital) signals, in contrast to the analog signals used by analog TV.

The first country to make a wholesale switch to Digital Over-the-Air (terrestrial) broadcasting was the Netherlands, in 2006. This was followed by Finland and Sweden in 2007.

In the United States, full-power television stations are scheduled to change over to digital on June 12, 2009. By special dispensation, some analog TV signals will cease, as previously scheduled, on February 17, 2009. This has to do with station resistence to a sudden change in schedule, that will cost broadcasters money and cause logistical nightmares.

In Canada, the switch to digital is scheduled to happen August 31, 2011. China is scheduled to switch in 2015. In the United Kingdom, the digital switchover has different times for each part of the country; however, the whole of the UK will be digital by 2012. Brazil switched to digital in December 2, 2007 in major cities and it is estimated 7 years for complete signal expansion over all of the Brazilian territory.

While the majority of the viewers of over-the-air broadcasting in the USA watch full-power stations (which number about 1800), there are three other categories of TV stations in the USA: low-power stations, Class A stations, and TV translator stations. There is presently no deadline for these stations, about 7100 in number, to convert to digital broadcasting.

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Digital For People Using An Antenna

Swithching to digital can be expensive for antenna users!

Although the switch to digital signals won't affect the larger share of our population (cable and satellite users), it can get pretty expensive for "antenna" users.

In order to keep the "outcry" against the change to a minimum, our government offered $40 coupons to negate the cost of buying a digital converter for our older televisions. They claimed that this would take care of the cost of the digital converter so the change wouldn't cause hardships for lower income families. Which didn't work because they didn't issue enough coupons!

Also, what they didn't tell you is that those converter boxes won't work without you buying a new "UHF" antenna. When this fact came out, it was said that it was no big deal because a small, indoor UHF antenna was cheap. You could pick them up for as little as $10 or $20!

Many of you ran out and bought one of these antennas only to find out that they would not pull in the UHF signals! What now?

The truth that they didn't tell you is that those little indoor antennas won't pick up any signals unless you have a tower close to your home. And not just one tower, but one for each station that you want to watch.

If you happen to be like many, you might live in a rural area or small town where the closest towers might be forty or fifty miles away. In this case, your next choice is to buy an outdoor roof antenna (usually with a booster) that can get really expensive.

Then you either have to hire someone to mount it on your roof or do it yourself which means more expense or taking the chance of falling off of the roof. I guess that if the new, boosted power, UHF roof antenna still does not draw in all of these great new UHF signals, you can figure that you at least got a new ornament for your home. Or, if you're lucky you might be able to pick up one or two stations.

I wonder why we didn't get to vote on "this change to digital"? Of course with most people getting cable or satellite, us "antenna" folks would have lost anyway!

Why Digital (UHF)

The main advantage of UHF transmission is the physically short wave that is produced by the high frequency. The size of transmission and reception equipment, (particularly antennas), is related to the size of the radio wave. Smaller and less conspicuous antennas can be used with higher frequency bands.

The majority of digital TV stations currently broadcast their over-the-air signals in the UHF band, either because VHF is largely already filled with analogue TV or because of severe issues with impulse noise on digital low-VHF channels. While virtual channel numbering schemes routinely display channel numbers like "2.1" or "6.1" for individual North American terrestrial HDTV broadcasts, these are more often than not actually UHF signals. Many equipment vendors therefore use "HDTV antenna" or similar branding as all but synonymous to "UHF antenna".

Terrestrial digital television is based on a forward error correction scheme, in which a channel is assumed to have a random bit error rate and additional data bits may be sent to allow these errors to be corrected at the receiver. While this error correction can work well on UHF where interference patterns consist largely of white noise, it has largely proven inadequate on lower VHF channels where bursts of impulse noise disrupt the entire channel for short lengths of time. A short impulse burst may be a minor annoyance to analogue viewers, but due to the fixed timing and repetitive nature of analogue video synchronization is usually recoverable. The same interference can prove severe enough to prevent the reliable reception of the more fragile and more highly-compressed ATSC digital television. Power limits are also lower on low-VHF; a digital UHF station may be licensed to transmit up to a megawatt of effective radiated power. Very few stations therefore expect to return to VHF channels 2-6 after digital transition is completed in 2009. At least three quarters of all full-power digital broadcasts will use UHF transmitters, even after transition is complete. In some US markets, such as Syracuse, New York, there will be no stations returning to VHF after digital transition.

The one remaining limitation of UHF, that of a greatly-reduced ability for signals to travel great distances in the presence of obstacles due to terrain, continues to adversely affect digital UHF TV reception. Potentially, this limitation could be overcome by the use of DTS (Distributed Transmission Systems). Multiple digital UHF transmitters in carefully-selected locations can be synchronized as a single frequency network to produce a tailored coverage area pattern rivaling that of a single full-power VHF transmitter.

While the US Federal Communications Commission authorization to use DTS on anything more than an experimental basis came in November 2008, too late for sites to be acquired and transmitters built before the February 17, 2009 end of US digital transition, it is likely that more of these distributed UHF transmission systems will be constructed alongside conventional digital broadcast translator systems in the years to come as a means to get digital and high-definition television out to a wider audience.

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Much of the information used here has been researched from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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