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Australia is making the switch to digital TV

By the end of this year, Australia is going to switch off analog TV signals region by region. If you want to keep watching your favourite television programs, that means you need to be ready for digital television reception.


What are the benefits of this switch?

By switching to digital, it is possible for broadcasters to offer higher picture quality. Unlike an analog signal, it is possible to compress a digital signal far more, because of the added compression; the signal can contain more information. More information means more clarity and higher definition for the viewers. In fact, unlike analog signals, digital signals are not going to degrade in quality. As long as you have a signal with digital, you are going to receive a clear picture. This means no more static.


There is another benefit to this digital switch as well. There is additional bandwidth available for the broadcasters. This means that your local stations can offer more programmes than before. The reason behind this is broadcasting several shows within a single frequency – also referred as ‘multicasting.’ Whereas analog could only have a single channel on every frequency, digital eliminates this restriction. It also makes it possible to see program schedules on TV, thanks to the electronic program guide (EPG).


A change made around the globe

Another important reason Australia is switching to digital TV is that, 35 different countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States have already switched to digital. More than 30 countries, including India, New Zealand, and Brazil, are currently making the same switch. By switching to digital, Australian viewers can view all video formats produced in the future. The reason behind that is most television shows are increasingly exclusively being produced in digital. This means that without a switch to digital TV, analog viewers would eventually be unable to watch television shows produced in digital format.


What television do you need?

If you want to avoid having all types of messy connectors or additional cable boxes in order to watch digital television, having a digital television is the best way to do so. Even though these are a bit more expensive than other options on the market, they are the easiest way for people to get ready for digital. Before you do opt to get a digital television, consider the following:


  • In most areas of Australia, you will not need additional equipment if you have a digital TV, provided that you have the right antenna
  • Digital television can provide higher quality video
  • You have to remember that digital televisions are often the more expensive option


How can I decide upon what digital television to buy?

Before you leave your home to buy a television, there are several factors to consider. These are some of the most important considerations:


  • Do I buy LCD, LED, or Plasma? – Every type of television comes with its own series of benefits. Considering that the production of plasma televisions is expected to halt in the near future, it might make it difficult to find replacement parts.
  • Do I buy 3D television? – 3D television is a popular option with many people purchasing a new television, but it does not affect your ability to view digital content. This is a personal option more than anything else.
  • Internet-enabled smart TV or not? – Many of the digital services might be enhanced because of smart TV. While not a standard yet, it might become one in the future.


Most of these options come down to your budget and personal preferences. By talking to your local electronics retailer or researching more online, you can find out more about the different options in the event that you do end up buying a new digital television.


Why buy a digital TV antenna?

The basic goal for every antenna is to pick up broadcast signals that pass through the atmosphere. Despite the fact that it is possible to receive digital television reception from the old analog antenna, both the reliability and quality of the reception would not be as good. Contrary to what most Australians think, it is not necessary to buy a special type of antenna. In fact, to get good digital reception you just need an antenna that is configured correctly for your circumstances or new enough to where it can work automatically. However, if you live in an area where signals frequently suffer from interruptions or in a remote area, you might also need to install a signal amplifier.


Understanding the digital journey

The reception for your digital television does begin at your antenna, but it does not stop until you are taking in the image on the screen through your eyes and ears. Between the first and final step the signal has to pass through a network of devices and cables, all of which can influence whether you get good or bad sound and image quality. Your cable is more important than most people realize. If you find that you are not getting the reception you want, it might be because your cable is unable to carry the digital signal effectively.


If you periodically have poor reception, and notice that the reception gets worse when running an electrical appliance, this might be because of “impulse noise”. Especially when using widely spaced elements antennas and while watching VHF channels, this might prove to be a problem.


What can I do if my signal is poor?

Fortunately, it is easy to identify if you have poor digital reception. If your sound is distorted or popping or your screen is freezing or pixelating, chances are that you have a problem with digital reception. In that event, you can try the following steps:


  • Always get a professional installer to install and tune your digital TV to enjoy trouble free viewing for years to come.
  • Check to see whether your area is currently experiencing service interruptions or what the expected coverage is.
  • Re-tune your digital television or your set-top box. You might have to re-tune more than once to get access to all the available services.
  • Keep in mind that digital reception may suffer because of weather conditions. If you know your current conditions are bad, wait until they have passed and try it again later.
  • Local terrain, buildings, and foliage (bushes and trees) can also affect your channel. If you use an antenna, make sure it is not being obstructed.
  • Your reception can be affected because of damaged reception equipment. Make sure that your antenna is in working condition. Make sure that none of the cables are disconnected or loose and make sure that you have correct cables for the connection.
  • If you live in a remote area you may be able to receive the Government subsidised (Satellite Subsidy Scheme (SSS)) known as “Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST)”. 


What if you do not want to upgrade your television?

Some Australians have multiple televisions in their household, some that are analog only. In order to get these digital ready, you would need a set-top box. If you have an analog television and the analog signal switches off in your area, you will not be able to watch any more television on that particular television without using a set-top box.


If you are not interested in buying a new television, this is an alternative method to get your old television digital ready. The price can vary greatly, depending on the amount of options that you want. Some set-top boxes have features such as recording to a hard disk or USB or pausing live television.


Subscription television

Digital television also opens the door for ‘pay TV’ or ‘subscription TV’; this is a paid service by companies such as TransACT, Optus, Telstra, and Foxtel. This gives you more channels than the traditional free television options. Despite the fact that it offers you far more channels than free-to-air TV does, you have to remember that they will require a set-up fee and a monthly payment. The best thing to do is check with your provider to see what the possible options are.


In conclusion there are many other additional benefits and advantages of using a digital TV. Most of the makes and model may have a network connection that can access internet directly to browse and view online video content.


You can also use your digital TV as an extended monitor for connecting your laptop “wireless” to a digital TV by using simple plug and play adapters without any additional software.

This can be useful when viewing free online TV channels that require a computer to view the video content.


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