What is Digital Television?
Digital television is a replacement technology for existing free-to-air (FTA) analogue services. It will provide better picture quality and reception, plus a variety of new features that will greatly enhance the viewing experience. Australia has chosen the European DVB standard as the Digital Terrestrial TV or DTTV standard. DVB is proving to be a very high quality system and is being used in many countries around the world. In Australia it will replace the analogue PAL system.
What’s so special about Digital?
Digital television is a far more efficient and flexible transmission system than the current analogue system. It allows broadcasters to offer viewers a range of new and different services. Australian digital television features will include:
1. ‘Ghost free’ reception
2. Widescreen 16 x 9 pictures where programming is available
3. Standard definition pictures (SD) & High definition pictures (HD)
4. High quality audio and surround sound (CD quality) supporting Prologic and AC3 formats.
5. Multi-channel programming on ABC and SBS
6. Closed Captioning of programs for the hearing impaired.
7. Electronic Program Guides (EPGs) with ‘now & next’ program information.
8. Multi-camera views and enhancements of the same broadcast event during selected programs. Over time, interactive television services including selected Internet services, home shopping, computer games and more will be provided by broadcasters.
What about audio quality?
Audio (as well as video signals in DTTV are digital and thus can be used to attain the same quality as that of CD's and is clearly superior to analogue.
What is wide-screen?
Many digital television programs will be broadcast in wide-screen mode. Widescreen television has a different TV Screen aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) than traditional analogue. Widescreen’s aspect ratio is 16:9, while Australian viewers have been accustomed to viewing a 4:3 aspect ratio since television began in this country.
Over time the widescreen format will replace the current 4:3 format. This can be evidenced from the use of widescreen format on DVD movies as well as newer TV programs especially movies and sports. An increasing amount of DTTV content is being transmitted in 16:9 and news and current affairs programs like “10 News”, “7 News” and “Nine News” are already using this format. Wide-screen will in many cases literally mean you see more of the picture.
Most movies are currently made in 16:9 and are converted to 4:3 to allow us to watch them on television or video, so there is a lot of information that you don’t see on your television that you would see in the cinema version of the film.
Live sporting events will benefit in particular from the extra detail and wider frame.
For some time now television production has been converting to widescreen, both locally and overseas. Widescreen programming is becoming widespread and will eventually become the global standard.
What is Multi-channelling?
Multi-channeling is where more than one television program can be broadcast in SDTV at the same time. This is because a digital signal can carry much more data than an analogue signal. The Federal Government has decided that commercial broadcasters will not be allowed to multi-channel (at least until 2008), but that the ABC and SBS may do so now.
What is interactive television (iTV)?
iTV allows the viewer to receive more information from a television broadcast than analogue can provide. iTV can be one-way or two-way.
One-way iTV delivers information to your receiver that is additional to the main program and allows you the option to view it or not. The viewer is able to view travel deals, concert dates etc. Full, two-way iTV enables the viewer to send information back to the broadcaster via a back-channel. The viewer will be able to vote in a poll, reserve concert tickets, etc. Both one-way and two way iTV can be added to television commercials as well as programs. A special icon will appear on the screen to notify the viewer iTV is available.
Does it cost anything to receive Digital Television?
No, other than the purchase and installation of either a Digital STB or Digital television.
In order to pick up full HD you need a digital compatible antenna. Your analogue antenna system may be able to pick up a certain amount of digital reception but with a lot poorer quality.
What is a digital television set-top box?
A set-top box for digital television receives and decodes digital transmissions into a form suitable for display on analogue television sets or other display devices, e.g. computer monitors or projection screens.
Do I need a new antenna to receive Digital Television?
The channels being allocated to digital television in the capital cities are mainly adjacent to existing analogue channels. If your existing antenna is in reasonable condition, is presently providing good all-channel reception, is capable of receiving VHF channels 6 to 12, then it would most likely provide an acceptable signal reception point for the new digital television services in most capital city areas.
Outside capital cities, digital channel allocations are expected to be within the same UHF band, so reception should generally be possible using existing UHF antennas. Viewers in areas of poor analogue reception may need specialist advice about antenna requirements for digital reception in their area.
Having said this however, the average age of antenna systems is estimated at over five years old. It is therefore quite possible that you may need to upgrade. Cabling with poor shielding for example may “pixilate” the Digital picture should there be significant local electrical interference (e.g. power lines, when using electric drill, hairdryers, etc).