Home digital switchover date
The UK is set for digital TV switchover (DSO) in all regions by 2012, with the Border region (Whitehaven, Cumbria) being the first region to have their analogue TV service switched off in October 2007.
The DVB Digital switchover dates and timetable for other UK regions is shown in the table below. Use this article to help prepare for UK digital TV switchover, with useful tips and free advice. Our aim is to help you understand the repercussions DSO will have for your existing television viewing and to convert your existing TV equipment in preparation for the change.
|UK TV Region||Proposed Switchover Date|
|Border||Completed in 2007 - 2008|
|Granada||Completed in 2009|
|West Country||Completed in 2009|
|Wales||Completed March 31st 2010|
|HTV West, STV North||Completed in 2010|
|STV (Central Scotland)||2010 - 2011|
|Channel Islands||Completed in 2010|
|Central, Anglia, Yorkshire Regions||Various dates in 2011|
|Meridian, Tyne Tees||Various dates in 2012|
|London||Scheduled Completion 18th April 2012|
|Ulster (Northern Ireland)||Estimated Completion 30th March 2013|
Budget Freeview Adapter
The above dates for the UK's switchover to Digital TV have been formally agreed and in preparation for the switch off of the existing UK analogue television service, the Freeview digital terrestrial television service has already launched from all main TV transmitters.
The UK's network of relay (fill-in) transmitters operate a reduced Freeview service and will continue to do so after DSO, with most transmitting only 3 of the 6 digital multiplexes - these are Mux D3+4, BBC A and BBC B. These multiplexes collectively provide BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, ITV1, ITV2 and Five as well as the BBC's line-up of radio services and secondary channels such as E4 and More 4. ITV3 and ITV4 will not be available on Freeview for viewers served by UK relay transmitters.
Freeview offers around 38 free to air (FTA) digital TV channels and 24 high quality digital radio stations via your aerial. In some cases a wideband aerial upgrade may be required in order to receive Freeview transmissions. Advice on aerial upgrades and existing coverage areas is given on the Freeview website.
After Digital switchover (DSO), the transmitter power level of the UK Freeview service will be dramatically increased so as to extend the digital TV coverage to mirror that of the existing analogue television service.
Humax PVR 9300T
Digital TV offers far more programme choice and improved picture quality. One of the vagaries of analogue television was co-channel interference (a weather phenomena) prevalent during high atmospheric pressure, or patterning caused by RF interference from nearby transmitters, phone and Tetra police masts.
We did an experiment to assess the benefits of digital TV some time ago and even with the existing low power Freeview TV service, reception of most digital multiplexes was possible even where analogue TV signal was weak and analague reception was poor. This is encouraging, given that (in some cases) a ten fold increase in transmitter power is planned for the UK's main TV transmitters after digital switchover.
Digital TV is inherently more robust through built in error correction, so aside from the costs of buying set top boxes or IDTV equipment, digital switchover (DSO) should bring reception improvements across the board to areas currently suffering poor analogue TV reception.
Even in areas of the UK with a low power Freeview transmitter, set top boes and PVR's from Humax or Philips with a high performance tuner can outperform analogue reception, giving better reception quality. The Humax PVR9300T 320GB Twin Tuner PVR can give reliable Freeview reception in UK regions where analogue television reception is currently poor and signal strength weak. Freeview boxes and IDTV televisions with integrated Freeview HD are also available from John Lewis.
To prepare for the digital switchover dates will inevitably involve some financial outlay and forward planning. After UK digital switchover (DSO), all existing analogue television equipment not fitted with a digital TV adaptor (I.E. a Freeview set top box) will cease to receive any TV channels.
The exception being IDTV's (these being TV's with built in integrated digital tuners for Freeview DVB-T reception) and TV's that are fed via a UHF distribution system from a Sky, Sky+ or Sk+ HD Digibox. In addition, some Freeview boxes and PVR's have UHF modulators compatible with TV distribution amplifiers / loft boxes so these too could feed older analogue TV's around the home.
When preparing for digital TV switchover (DSO), you will face the following choices in order to continue viewing:-
Loft Distribution Amp
Sky TV reception is not possible at all locations. To receive Sky TV via a minidish, you will need an unobstructed view of the south east sky, free from nearby tall trees or other obstructions. The elevation of the Astra 28.2E satellite varies from 18 - 21 degrees (in northern England and Scotland) to around 25 degrees above the horizon in London and the rest of southern England. Refer to our Sky dish installation guide for more information.
Freeview digital TV reception is currently only available in 78% of the UK population in early 2007. After digital switchover (DSO), it is expected that above 95% of the UK will be able to receive Freeview terrestrial digital TV. Before you buy Freeview set top box an IDTV or PVR, check DVB-T coverage in your area by postcode at the Freeview website.
The equipment costs in preparing for digital switchover in the UK will be significant. Ofcom estimates that the average cost to each UK household of the digital TV switchover will be £132. The cheapest solution to continue watching TV after the analogue television service is turned off, is to opt for a budget Freeview adapter, some of which are now available for less than £30.
Where good analogue TV reception is possible on a set top TV aerial, free from significant ghosting and noise, the same aerial may suffice for digital TV particularly after DSO when transmitter power is increased on most main transmitters around the UK. However, indoor aerials are more prone to interference pickup and this can lead to the picture breaking up on Freeview when central heating thermostats cut in or light switches are turned on/off. There really is no substitute for an external aerial fitter by a CAI approved engineer.
Some areas of the UK require an wideband aerial upgrade for Freeview reception - a Triax Unix 52 is one of the best aerials and is CAI approved. Old TV aerials which have suffered rainwater ingression or use poor quality coaxial cable will also need upgrading. After digital switchover, the DVB-T transmitter power levels will be significantly raised and all regional TV relay stations will all be converted to DVB-T digital standards, so Freeview coverage will be significantly extended and enhanced.
Preparing for digital switchover (DSO) by upgrading to a high gain digital compatible aerial and double screened coaxial cable feeder makes sense to ensure the best reception moving forward.
You may be interested to read our article on Hauppauge WinTV PVR cards to learn how to record TV programmes onto your PC and create high quality DVD's for home use (subject to copyright restrictions).