What is Digital TV?
Digital TV involves the broadcast of pictures and sound through digital transmission, which basically means sending the information as computerised data, improving the all-round quality. The analogue signal which ruled the TV age of the 20th Century allowed five channels to be broadcast, but the digital switchover has given the nation a more efficient and higher quality way to watch TV.
The digital switchover
2012 sees the completion of the digital switchover; the ongoing process has involved systemically switching off analogue transmitters, resulting in the complete transition to digital TV. In order to receive digital TV, you need some kind of digital set-top box. They come in different shapes and sizes, and vary in cost and performance, but you must have one to watch digital TV.
The benefits of digital TV
Aside from the better bandwidth efficiency (which means that less airwave space is being used up), digital offers other benefits that increase the home viewing experience. Digital TV allows for a huge channel base, no matter which provider, so there is greater choice, and there is also an Electronic Programme Guide, or EPG, which makes channel-hopping and browsing much easier. An EPG shows upcoming programmes, letting you plan ahead with your viewing.
The sound and picture quality is vastly improved because the information is sent through a better form of transmission. Sending computerised information results in a clearer, more advanced signal, so no more hissing or crackling and far less interference.
Digital also allows for interactive functions, such as the ‘red button’ and digital text. These are operated through your remote and provide extra features such as alternative sports coverage, news and useful tools.
Sending the digital signal
Your digital TV signal can be received in different ways, and this will depend on your provider. You could receive through a satellite dish, aerial, cable or phone line, and the cost of equipment and installation will vary between providers and your choice of set-up.
Subscribing to digital TV
The digital switchover is not designed to cost you more money, which is why there is a national free-to-air service available without subscription, and this is called Freeview. Much like the days of analogue, there are a base set of channels available to everyone. You still need to purchase a digital set-top box, but you won’t pay for the channels that broadcast. You can also use a satellite dish to get the alternative free-to-air option called Freesat, but you would still need to pay for any necessary equipment or installation.
If you want more channels and an increased service then you can choose a subscription-based digital TV deal from Sky, Virgin Media or BT Vision. These providers will charge a monthly fee for the channels you choose to have in your home. Channels are grouped together in themes or genres, and there are premium packs which will have exclusive sport or movie content.
Each provider has their own price for set-up, installation and monthly subscription, and there are often introductory deals, bundles and other offers that help save you money.