Types of Digital TV

By James Pickard - Tue 11th Mar 2014 Guides

Digital TV can be broadcast in different ways, such as via satellite or fibre-optic cable. This short guide will tell you more about each method of digital TV signal broadcast, and the relevant providers.

DTTV – Digital Terrestrial Television

This is the free-to-air digital service  which replaced analogue TV.  The method of broadcasting is similar to analogue in that your aerial receives the signal, but the picture and sound quality is greatly improved.

The channels that were previously available through analogue without subscription, such as BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, are all included, as well as several +1 and sister stations that are also subscription-free.  DDTV allows for a wider range of channels, whilst improving quality, which is one of the reasons why it was decided that the nation should switch to digital.

DTTV is free, but does require the purchase of a set-top box, which will transfer the digital signal into picture and sound.  The free service is called Freeview, and you can get TVs integrated with a Freeview decoder, as an alternative to a Freeview set-top box.

You will, of course, still need to get a TV licence, as is the case with all methods of receiving TV in the UK.

Satellite TV

Satellite TV uses a small satellite dish, mounted outside your home, to receive the digital signal sent via a communications satellite in space, and the signal is converted by a set-top box.  Satellite TV allows for a huge range of channels to broadcast, and the digital signal makes for excellent sound and picture quality.

The UK’s main satellite TV provider is Sky, and since the early nineties the service has steadily gained popularity to become a leading subscription-based alternative to free-to-air TV.  Sky’s satellite service is so successful that it has the buying power to purchase exclusive rights to sport and film premieres, which are then shown on themed channels owned by Sky.  Due to the nature of a satellite-based broadcast, almost 100% of the country can receive Sky from their homes, as long as a dish is installed.

The other satellite service available is Freesat, which shows many of the free-to-air channels on Freeview, and is completely free of subscription.  In order to have this service you will obviously need to have satellite dish installed, or use one that previously received Sky TV.  You would also still need to pay for any necessary set-up.

Fibre-optic Cable TV

Digital TV is also provided via fibre-optic cabling; the signal is sent using ultra-thin fibres located within cables under the ground, leading discreetly into your home.  The fibre-optic technology has gained popularity with customers because it is capable of delivering a superfast broadband connection.  The UK provider offering cable TV is Virgin Media, and as a result of the market leading broadband capability, many choose to bundle Virgin Media TV and broadband together.

Fibre-optic cable TV is capable of delivering high quality digital picture and sound, and can eliminate the need and additional cost of a phone line when using the internet.  A set-top box is still required to convert the signal into digital TV.

IPTV – Internet Protocol Television

IPTV allows digital TV to be broadcast and received using a fixed broadband internet connection in the home.  The digital signal is sent through the internet connection and shows live TV, as well as on demand and catch-up TV content.

As with other providers, a digital TV box is required, which is used to browse channels and select from the interactive menus offering the catch-up and on demand options.

Compare Digital TV Providers

These are the providers available, and they all have something to offer.  Compare digital TV providers to check out all the deals, channels and packages available.  HD (High Definition) is becoming increasingly popular due to the crisp, clear picture and impeccable sound, and all the providers have the capacity to deliver the HD channels to your home.  You need an HD box from your chosen provider, and an HD-ready TV.  When you choose your digital TV provider, always make sure you know the amount payable immediately as well as monthly so you know exactly what the service is costing you.