Thursday, June 07, 2007

The digital TV transition

In about a year and a half, analog broadcast TV will be ending and the transition to digital broadcast in the US will be complete. The New York Times carries an erroneous article about the transition, claiming "The V-shaped rabbit ears ... risk going the way of the eight-track tape player" because of the transition.

That's complete rubbish -- antenna use will increase, not go away (as some cable companies might claim), as people see huge quality improvements and the allure of free HDTV over-the-air. Instead of paying extra in order to get HDTV channels from Comcast, they'll re-discover the broadcast networks in HD, for free.

Some may argue the argument was for the VHF rabbit ears to go away, not the antenna in entirety, but they failed to note that at least here in Chicago, a major network (WBBM-DTV) broadcasts their HD signal on channel 3, in the low-VHF band, absolutely requiring the use of the so-called "obsolete" rabbit ears. See a long discussion about the HDTV situation here.


DTV Steve said...

Viewers in reception-challenged areas might even need rooftop antennas, since a marginal DTV signal is so much more difficult to put up with than analog.

If we were to see a real resurgence in antenna viewership, though, there's a chance that station owners would start adding lots of new multicast channels, putting the squeeze on HDTV quality.

Denny Duplessis said...

Consumer interest in free over the air digital- HD TV is definitely on the increase. The number of visitors to our web site has skyrocketed over the past year, mainly do to the introduction of free over the air digital - HDTV.
Choosing the proper TV antenna for a particular location is the main issue for most. Many consumer's have a tendency to purchase antennas that are to small to do the job, digital reception is an all or nothing proposition, you're going to want a strong signal. Also, there is a misconception that all digital - HDTV broadcast signals are on the UHF band (14-69) Currently it's true, many broadcaster's are transmitting their digital signals on UHF, because much of the VHF band (2-13) is currently being used to broadcast analog TV signals. However, when the digital transition is complete on February 17th of 2009, the date set when broadcasters will turn off their analog signals, things will change. There are only a handful of broadcast locations across the U.S. that have plans to remain 100% on the UHF band, most areas will have both VHF and UHF digital stations. This means if you purchase a UHF TV antenna now, chances are you may loose the ability to receive a portion of your digital channels in the future. Some areas already have VHF digital stations.

My best advice is to purchase a TV antenna that is large enough to be certain it can easily receive all of the digital broadcast signals in your area, even during poor reception conditions. The antenna should be VHF/UHF capable, unless you are absolutely certain all of your stations are currently UHF, and will remain UHF after the digital transition is complete. To determine the channel number your area digital stations currently broadcast on now, and the channel number they plan to broadcast on after the 2009 analog shutdown date, visit http://hraunfoss.fccgov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-06-1082A2.pdf. When you visit this site, start by finding your state and then the city where your area stations are located. The channel number that appears in the first column is the current digital channel number of that station, the second column is the current analog channel number, and the third column is the tentative final channel number destination. The third column is the channel number where the station plans to permanently broadcast their digital signal. VHF channels are 2 - 13 and UHF are 14 - 69. If your not sure where or what stations are available in your area, visit This is a great site to visit, it will provide the city location of the stations in your area and much more.

Anonymous said...

"Viewers in reception-challenged areas might even need rooftop antennas, since a marginal DTV signal is so much more difficult to put up with than analog"

I respectfully disagree. DTV signals are not more difficult to pull in. The digital signal has much better noise immunity than the analog one and could be even easier to pull in unless the broadcasters reduced the power of DTV transmissions, which they can do because of the inherent DTV noise immunity.

By browsing through hdtv antenna reviews, you can see that the same antennas that are widely used for analog reception are doing very good job in the OTA HDTV reception.

Anonymous said...

If you read the part you missed on the quoted part, he said "put up with" and by that he means unlike analog which will fade in and out often allowing you to see the program, digital will freeze frame and you won't have a clue as to what happened during the pause.

So, you want an antenna good enough to prevent freeze framing. For many in rural areas this means an outdoor antenna.

The New York part is also understandable. After 9/11 the only spot they had in the area high enough to give good coverage was gone and now there are gaps in the reception that did not exist. That means that rabbit ear antennas won't work as well as they used to and would probably need either repeaters to fill in the dead spots or outside antennas with more gain.