The Digital Switchover
The digital switchover is the process of shutting down the analogue TV signal in the UK and setting up digital broadcasting across the nation. It is a long process, as multiple analogue transmitters need to be turned off in regions throughout the UK, and the process will be complete by the end of 2012.
Why are we switching to digital?
Analogue simply takes up too much bandwidth (broadcast space), whilst digital is far more efficient. The pictures and sound are sent as small pieces of computerised information that are then decoded by a set-top box. This method of TV broadcasting takes up very little space, allowing room for a much larger range of channels, as well as other services such as wireless broadband and high definition (HD) TV.
What are the benefits of the digital switchover?
A major benefit to UK viewers is the expanded capacity for channels. Analogue TV in the UK offered five channels; BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Digital TV allows for hundreds of channels to be available, although the exact number will depend on your provider.
Another benefit is interactivity; you can use your set-top box to access extra content, such as alternative sport or camera angles via the ‘red button’. The on-screen listings and electronic programme guide (EPG) give you a detailed breakdown of everything on TV now and later, and available audio description and subtitling can also be easily selected.
Digital TV also provides the option of subscription-based content, so you can get additional channels, as well as exclusive sport and movies.
What do I need to do?
You will need to get a digital set-top box so that your TV can receive the digital signal. You can go out and buy a Freeview box which will receive all the free-to-air digital channels, or you can get one as part of a subscription to a digital TV provider (you may still need to pay for it). Other than that, there is very little you need to do. The digital switchover will remove the analogue signal entirely, so you have to get a digital set-top box if you want to watch TV at home.
Will the digital switchover cost me money?
The only cost to you is the cost of a set-top box, unless you choose a subscription-based provider. If you do that then you will pay a monthly fee, and you can choose a TV package, and there will probably be a good value bundle deal as well that includes broadband and phone. Digital is not designed to cost UK viewers more money; a free service will continue, but you have the option to go with a subscription-based provider if you’re happy to pay for extra TV choice.
Are there different types of set-top boxes?
You actually have a few choices, which all vary in cost. If you want to spend the minimum you can just go out and get a standard digital TV set-top box, but if you want high definition (HD) then you need an HD box which is more expensive, and you need an HD-ready TV. You can also get digital-integrated TVs which basically have the functions of a digital set-top box built-in.
When do I switch?
The analogue signal is being shut down, region by region, with completion due by the end of 2012. You can use the table below to check the planned digital switchover date for the areas that have not yet switched:
|Anglia||Sandy Heath||Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire||Complete|
|Sudbury||Parts of Sussex and Essex||Complete|
|Tacolneston||Norfolk and north Suffolk||Complete|
|Caldbeck||Cumbria, south west Scotland and the south Lakes||Complete|
|Central||Bromsgrove||The Bromsgrove area||Complete|
|Fenton||Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme||Complete|
|Lark Stoke||Stratford upon Avon area||Complete|
|Nottingham||The Nottingham area||Complete|
|Oxford||Oxfordshire, parts of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire||Complete|
|Ridge Hill||Herefordshire, north Gloucestershire and south Shropshire||Complete|
|Sutton Coldfield||Much of the West Midlands||Complete|
|The Wrekin||North Shropshire and south Cheshire||Complete|
|Sutton Coldfield||Parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and south Nottinghamshire||Complete|
|Channel Islands||Fremont Point||The Channel Islands||Complete|
|Granada||Winter Hill||Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and north Staffordshire||Complete|
|Douglas||Isle of Man||Complete|
|London||Crystal Palace||Greater London and parts of the Home Counties||03/04/2012|
|Meridian||Bluebell Hill||North and mid Kent||13/06/2012|
|Dover||South and east Kent||13/06/2012|
|Hannington||Parts of Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey||Complete|
|Hastings||The Hastings area||30/05/2012|
|Margate||The Margate area||13/06/2012|
|Midhurst||Much of West Sussex||29/02/2012|
|Rowridge||Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, parts of Dorset and West Sussex||07/03/2012|
|Tunbridge Wells||The Tunbridge Wells area||30/05/2012|
|Whitehawk Hill||The Brighton area||07/03/2012|
|STV Central||Torosay||South west Highlands and Islands||Complete|
|Darvel||Parts of central Scotland, Argyll and Bute||Complete|
|Black Hill||Glasgow, central Scotland and parts of Edinburgh||Complete|
|Craigkelly||Lothian, parts of Edinburgh and parts of Fife||Complete|
|STV North||Bressay||The Shetland Islands||Complete|
|Keelylang Hill||The Orkney Islands||Complete|
|Eitshal||Lewis, Wester Ross, North West Sutherland and parts of Harris and Skye||Complete|
|Skriaig||Skye, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and parts of Barra||Complete|
|Angus||Angus, Dundee, Perth and parts of Fife||Complete|
|Knockmore||Morayshire, Strathspey and parts of Easter Ross||Complete|
|Rosemarkie||Inverness and the Great Glen||Complete|
|Tyne Tees||Bilsdale||Much of North Yorkshire and Cleveland||12/09/2012|
|Pontop Pike||Durham and Tyneside||12/09/2012|
|Northern Ireland||Brougher Mountain||South west Northern Ireland||10/10/2012|
|Divis||Belfast and the surrounding area||10/10/2012|
|Limavady||North west Northern Ireland||10/10/2012|
|Wales||Kilvey Hill||The Swansea area||Complete|
|Preseli||South west Wales||Complete|
|Carmel||Parts of south and central Wales||Complete|
|Llanddona||North west Wales||Complete|
|Moel y Parc||North east Wales||Complete|
|Long Mountain||Parts of east and central Wales||Complete|
|Blaenplwyf||Parts of west and central Wales||Complete|
|Wenvoe||Cardiff, Newport and south east Wales||Complete|
|West Country||Beacon Hill||Torbay and south Devon||Complete|
|Caradon Hill||Plymouth, parts of Devon and east Cornwall||Complete|
|Huntshaw Cross||North Devon||Complete|
|Redruth||West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly||Complete|
|Stockland Hill||Exeter, parts of Devon, Somerset and Dorset||Complete|