Our Beginner's Guide to Digital TV

By James Pickard - Tue 11th Mar 2014 Guides

Our Beginner's Guide to Digital TV gives you more information about the national Digital Switchover, as well as the benefits of the service. Read about each UK digital TV provider, and the best way to get a good deal.

The Beginner's Guide to Digital TV

Our Beginner's Guide to Digital TV gives you more information about the national Digital Switchover, as well as the benefits of the service. Read about each UK digital TV provider, and the best way to get a good deal.

The Digital TV Switchover

The digital TV switchover was initiated so that everyone has a service with improved sound and picture quality as well as a much larger choice of channels.  The transition to digital also increases efficiency, because digital uses less bandwidth than analogue.  In short, it is an entirely beneficial service that will give viewers a much clearer and more enjoyable experience.

The Benefits

You will notice a huge improvement in your picture and sound; digital is a better way to send signal, and the difference is impressive.  There is no hiss or crackling, and far less interference, which makes for greatly improved viewing.  Digital also comes with loads of room for channels, so that there is much more TV choice.

You need a digital set-top box to watch digital TV, and these come with an EPG, or Electronic Programme Guide.  This shows the schedule for channels and makes it easy to browse what’s on.  Digital TV also gives an interactive experience, letting you access ‘red button’ content and digital text. Radio listeners benefit as well, with clean digital radio transmission available through digital TV set-top boxes.

The Cost

Digital TV doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take up a subscription if you don’t want to.  There is a free-to-air digital TV service called Freeview, and this only requires a digital set-top box, so there’s no monthly fee.  If you are happy to pay for installation and set-up, and a satellite dish, then Freesat is the other digital TV service without a monthly free, which provides free-to-air channels.

Sky, Virgin Media and BT TV all offer digital TV at a monthly cost, but there’s no single fixed fee.  The prices can vary, and even the most basic packages differ in cost between the providers.  The best thing to do is compare digital TV providers and think about exactly what channels and/or additional services you want included in your TV package.  You will usually have the choice to change your selection of channels month by month, and the monthly cost will change as you make alterations.

Digital TV Providers

There are a few providers to choose from and compare, so here is a little bit of information about each one to help you learn more...

Sky is a huge name in digital TV, and broadcasts using satellite technology.  You would need a small dish to receive the signal, but it’s discreet and there is a huge range of channels to choose from.  Sky always has deals and offers, which give customers a good way to save money, and the Electronic Programme Guide shows you TV schedules a week ahead.

Sky is well known for its TV service, and it’s also the home of weekly movie premieres and exclusive sports coverage.  You have to pay a monthly fee for Sky, and the amount you pay will depend on your choice of channels.

Virgin Media is Sky’s closest subscription-based rival, and the signal is sent through the alternative method of fibre-optic cable.  This is famously fast for broadband speed, so many choose Virgin Media for this aspect and have TV included in a bundle deal.  As with Sky, the list of channels is extensive, and the ones available to you will depend on your choice of TV packs.

Virgin Media can also offer some of the sports and movie content broadcast by Sky, at an additional monthly cost.  Once again, there are always offers and deals available as an incentive for new customers.

BT TV is also a subscription-based service, and works with a BT Broadband web connection.  This is known as IPTV, and offers a large selection of channels, similar to Sky and Virgin Media.  As with the other two providers, your choice of channels will affect the monthly cost; there are premium channels to choose from and some exclusive live sport from Sky can also be added to your subscription.

Freeview is the free-to-air service, which includes loads of channels totally free.  The only cost involved is the purchase of a digital Freeview set-top box, and these can be relatively cheap.  You still get an EPG, and the clear picture and sound that comes with all digital TV broadcasting.  Widely watched channels BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are all included, as well as sister stations such as BBC Three and E4, and the popular film channel FilmFour.

Freesat is the alternative free-to-air service, and broadcasts using satellite technology.  Most of the free-to-air channels available on Freeview are included and there is no monthly subscription to pay.  The only cost comes from set-up, installation and a set-top box.

Compare Digital TV

When it comes to making your choice, it’s all down to you and what you want from your digital TV.  It might seem a bit tricky and time-consuming to decide which one is really best for you, but you can compare digital TV to break down the offers and deals clearly.  It saves you time and money, and makes things much easier.