The Real Deal on Digital Television Conversion
There has been a lot of confusion about what happens to television
once the US switches from analog to digital broadcasting [DTV] on
February 17 2009. This transition comes in the wake of confusion
over standard definition televisions and high definition televisions
[HDTV]. So let’s start there - digital broadcasting is totally
separate from HDTV. The conversion to digital transmission does
NOT mean you will receive HDTV.
Most USA TV broadcasters have been broadcasting both digital [ATSC]
and analog [NTSC] signals for several years. On February 17, 2009
they must cease broadcasting their analog channels and only broadcast
on their digital channels. In addition, no station will be allowed
to broadcast on channels 52 to 69 [700 MHz band]; this frequency
being returned to the Government.
The new digital channels will be identified with the same numbers
as the old analog channels, regardless of the physical channel being
The change only refers to over-the-air broadcasts and NOT digital
cable or satellite channels.
To clarify – for those currently connected to:
- Cable or Satellite - or other paid services
will not be affected by this change. However, as every cable company
is different, contact your provider to confirm that you will not
- Over-The-Air – using roof top antennas
or rabbit-ears – you WILL be affected. Check your TV manual
to see if your TV has a built-in digital tuner. If it does, you
are okay. If not, you will need a digital [DTV] converter box.
Find a Digital
to Analog TV Converter Box
More on Cable
Virtually all cable companies converts some or all of the signals
it transmits into analog, as most sets in current use do not have
digital capabilities. You are therefore currently receiving analog
cable reception on a "cable-ready" television set. This
means that you are fine with your current set up as long as the
cable provider continues this practice. Your cable provider may
opt to receive the new digital over-the air broadcast signals and
continue to send them on to you in analog form. However, cable providers
are NOT required to continue delivering in analog, so you must check
with your provider for any change schedules. If they do, you will
need to get a converter box as well. Many cable companies have already
dropped analog, making a box mandatory on the cable system.
Higher-tier packages also provide analog reception, for now, for
digital cable channels, but to receive those you usually need a
box from the cable provider. These channels typically include the
scrambled premium film channels, like HBO, for example. They also
include other "premium" content that is not necessarily
scrambled, but for which a digital cable box is required (which
box converts the digital cable signal into an analog signal for
your television set). Again, you should be able to continue using
your current sets with these boxes should you ever upgrade your
service and require a cable converter box. Note, this box differs
from the ones needed for OTA transmissions. Every cable system is
different; the digital signals they send are NOT the same as the
digital signals broadcast over-the-air.
Converter Box Coupons
The coupons for converter boxes currently being distributed will
work only for over-the-air broadcast signals and NOT with digital
cable signals. A digital cable box will get you the digital over-the-air
signals converted into analog, but the new converter boxes will
not get you digital cable channels.
Built in Antennae
Television sets using built-in rabbit ear or telescopic antennas
will NOT be able to use the digital broadcast converter box. You
will need to disconnect these and get a separate antenna that can
be connected to the converter box . This box is then connected to
the TV set.
This will be the case for most portable TV sets, most of which
have built in antenna.
The hookup between the converter and the TV set will require a
75 ohm connection, or the use of a 75 ohm to 300 ohm transformer
if the set is so old it has only the older 300 ohm twin-lead connection.
Although HDTV has nothing to do with digital TV, most newer HDTVs
use digital tuners that will work after the switch. A few recent
SDTVs area also fitted with digital tuners, so check your manual.
Find a digital ready HDTV
The DTV Difference
The difference you will notice with DTV, apart from a clearer picture
quality, is that the ghosting and snow you currently experience
in low reception areas will disappear. You can expect perfect pictures
with digital tuners even on the weakest stations.
There are also some existing sub channels that no analog tuner
can decipher. These will become available to you.
Find a Digital
to Analog TV Converter Box
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