Digital TV (DTV) is turbo-charged television, yielding clearer pictures, better sound, more programming and more viewing excitement than traditional analog television. Digital TV offers a picture free of "ghosts," "snow" or interference. The crisper, shaper image is due to the increased number of pixels the digital signal puts on the screen - the higher the number, the shaper the picture - and the High-definition Television (HDTV) has the highest resolution available.
Furthermore, HDTV provides 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital CD-quality surround sound, adding to the ultimate home theatre experience. Digital TV also enables broadcasters to multicast, bringing viewers multiple channels of over-the-air programming simultaneously in a Standard-definition Television (SDTV) format. All of this is free with over-the-air broadcasting!
Why is Digital TV better than "regular" analog TV?
Digital TV brings viewers five times the picture resolution and clarity of analog TV, making viewers feel like they are right in the middle of the action on their screens. Digital TV uses binary code, the same system of ones and zeroes that runs on computers and digitally recorded compact discs. Switching TV broadcasts to digital is like switching from cassette tapes to compact disc or from VHS tape to DVD - the pictures are clearer, and sound is improved, giving viewers their favorite programs on a whole new level. In addition, with a 16:9 aspect ratio compared to today's 4:3 aspect ratio of analog television, Digital TV lets viewers see much wider images.
Will consumers have to pay to receive Digital TV broadcasts?
No. Unlike digital cable where consumers pay monthly fees for services, Digital TV provides high quality programming and more content via free, over-the-air broadcasts.
I heard regular TV went away. What is going on?
Congress established a final transition date of March 12, 2009. On that date, all full-power television stations in the United States were required by law to cease analog broadcasting. If you subscribe to cable or satellite service, they will most likely continue converting digital broadcasts to analog in their set top box for years beyond the transition deadline. If you watch TV using an indoor or outdoor antenna connected to your set you can add a low-cost converter box or replace your old analog TV with a digital set.
My cable provider says I'm getting digital cable. Does that mean I'm getting Digital TV?
No. "Digital cable" is not necessarily digital TV. "Digital cable" means your cable signal is being sent through a digital system. It may or may not have been a digital signal to begin with. Some channels on "Digital cable" have been converted from the original broadcast analog signal into a digital signal, but the quality is limited by the original source. True digital TV offers far better quality. Most area digital TV signals are not carried by digital cable.
Can I get digital TV with cable or satellite?
Currently, many of over-the-air digital TV stations are being carried on cable and satellite systems. You need to check with your cable or satellite service to see if they carry the digital broadcast of your local station. You can pay a cable company or satellite service to bring you local TV or, in most cases, simply use an antenna and get the very best picture and sound for free.
What about my existing analog TV?
If you use an older analog TV and you receive programs with an antenna, you may purchase an inexpensive digital converter boxe. Government sponsored coupons to subsidize the cost of the box are no longer available. You can find out more at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
What are the different signals that viewers will see on Digital TV?
Digital TV gives broadcasters the flexibility to bring viewers programming on different types of digital signals - ranging from high-definition to standard-definition. Digital TV signals have better resolution than analog TV, which has been in use for more than 50 years. High-definition digital signals also have five times the resolution than that of analog. With Digital TV, broadcasters can send various signals to consumers, including:
• High-definition Television (HDTV)
An HDTV signal allows a broadcaster to transmit a wide-screen picture with many times more detail than is contained in current analog TV pictures. HDTV brings viewers programming so crisp and so clear, it produces an image as sharp as reality. In addition, HDTV offers unsurpassed audio quality.
• Standard-definition Television (SDTV).
An SDTV signal is another type of signal that viewers experience through DTV. While SDTV signals eliminate ghosting and snow, they are particularly remarkable because they occupy less space on the allocated spectrum than high-definition signals and bring viewers multiple channels of free, over-the-air programming from the same station. In effect, one Digital Television signal has the ability to carry either a program broadcast in HDTV, and in some cases one additional standard definition signal, or several programs broadcast simultaneously in Standard-definition Television. For example, rather than having only channel 8, DTV creates the possibility of channels 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 and 8.4 each carrying a different program.
What should consumers look for when shopping for a new TV set today?
When shopping for a new TV set, consumers today have choices.
• A Digital TV set with a built in tuner - This option allows viewers to receive analog and digital signals. Currently, the FCC orders all manufacturers to include digital tuners for over-the-air broadcasts on all current television sets if they include an analog tuner. With an integrated tuner set you'll be able to watch high-definition (HD), enhanced-definition (ED) or standard definition (SD) programs. An HDTV set has the highest resolution available and provides the ultimate home theatre experience. An integrated tuner digital TV set provides consumers the most convenient, hassle-free way to experience digital TV.
• A digital TV monitor and a separate digital tuner/decoder box - This option allows you to upgrade to digital TV when you ready. If you choose to purchase only a Digital TV monitor, you can get a widescreen format and improved picture. In order to receive an over-the-air signal with a digital TV monitor, you'll need to purchase a set-top tuner/decoder box. These boxes may be used with HD, ED, or SD monitors.
• An analog set - Analog TV sets are rarely available for purchase now. If you buy an analog set today, it will not receive any of the benefits of digital TV, including the clearest pictures and sound ever available. Because an analog set does not have a digital tuner, you will have to purchase a digital tuner decoder box to watch digital TV later. You can find out about these decoder boxes at National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Are the new DTV sets readily available?
Digital TV sets are available at both retail stores nationwide as well as online. Like CD players, computers and cell phones, the prices for Digital TV sets continue to drop as the technology becomes more prominent. In fact, prices for Digital TV sets have been decreasing over the past several years and are available in stores today for prices close to an older analog TV set.
Do I need to convert to digital right away?
The Digital TV transition is complete. Most TV stations, are broadcasting a digital signal full-time. You can take advantage of the clearer picture, higher picture resolution, less interference and superior sound, right now.
If I have digital cable or digital satellite, do I have Digital Television? If I buy Digital TV, will it work with digital cable or digital satellite?
Digital cable or satellite is not the same as Digital Television. Many cable/satellite companies do not yet carry broadcasters' digital signals or carry them at a lower "bandwidth" or quality level. Digital cable/satellite refers only to how signals are transferred to the box on your TV.
Troubleshooting Guide - downloadSome information provided by the National Association of Broadcasters
1771 N Street, NW Washington, DC 20036
We have more information about High Definition DTV broadcasts on our Frequently Asked HD Questions page.
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