Digital & Analog – Questions & Answers

Q: So what will happen when they switch off analog transmissions?
A: This means you will need either a digital set top box or a digital TV to receive the digital transmissions from this time. Additionally, you will need to ensure that you have adequate digital signals being received at your antenna and throughout your system cabling all the way to each TV or digital device that you use. From my experience, not all digital TVs and set top boxes perform the same – I have come across some expensive and well known brands that have proved to be ‘over sensitive’ when receiving digital TV transmissions and haven’t performed as well as their more cost effective counterparts. If you are having trouble with digital reception and experience continual dropouts or screen pixilation, it pays to get a signal check performed with proper digital measuring equipment to determine whether the signal is the issue, or your device.

Q: How many digital channels are there?
A: Currently, each of the main licenced broadcasters have been allocated 4 channels each within their bandwidth, three of which are in Standard Definition (SD) format, one is in High Definition (HD). Whilst some of these channels seem to currently show the same shows, in time they will probably have different programming on each one.


Q: What’s all the recent discussions surrounding the Federal Government’s set top box installation scheme?
A: This was an initiative conceived some time ago called the Household Assistance Scheme (H.A.S) which enables persons who qualify to be provided with a free TV systems test and a (SD) set top box so as they can receive the main broadcast channels, when the analog switch-off occurs. This scheme was costed at a time back when the price of a SD set top box was much higher than they are today. Unfortunately, because the box being provided is only SD and not HD you miss out on channels like GEM, 7mate, ONEHD, ABC 24 and any future HD broadcasts. (Note: As the cost of set top boxes has come down dramatically, my tip is to purchase a HD set top box, or better still a HD TV set.)


Q: If I want to buy a new HD compatible TV set, what should I look for to get the best quality picture and sound?
A: You should look for a TV which shows the ‘digital ready’ logo and be capable of a screen resolution of Full HD (1080p or 1080i). The TV should preferably have an in-built HD digital tuner, and incorporate HDMI connections. If you want to record digital programs (i.e like you used to with your old analog VCR), and in particular if you want it in HD format, then you will also need to purchase a HD digital recorder. Your existing analog VCR won’t decode digital signals.


Q: Is there such a thing as a ‘digital antenna’?
A: (I get asked this all the time!). Well, it’s a matter of designing antennas to receive specific frequencies, rather than whether the transmission is in digital or analog format. There are indeed antennas designed to receive the new digital channels for the frequencies that they now operate on, and antenna installers refer to them as ‘digital’ antennas:

  • For Sydney viewers, your existing analog designed antenna was ideally only intended to receive VHF channels 2-10, and for those who can view SBS, UHF ch28. The new ‘digital’ antennas are designed to receive the VHF channels 6-12, and also UHF chs 29-34. So, if you keep your old VHF or combination VHF/UHF antenna, it’s not ideally tuned for the new digital channels TEN, ONEHD, Eleven and ABC (i.e digital spectrum ch’s 11 & 12).
  • For most of the Central Coast or Wollongong viewers, your existing UHF antennas should be ok.


Q: My neighbour has a different looking antenna (or more than one antenna) that is higher than mine. Why?
A: The transmission signals are affected by obstacles such as forward foliage, building blockages, and rear/ side/top reflections. External impulse noise also plays a part in affecting the received signal. The signal corridor that is received at your antenna can be different by literally moving the antenna a small distance up, down or sideways. Antennas come in different shapes and sizes based on trying to overcome these factors and to achieve digital signal power & quality levels that are required at your specific location. It’s fair to say that some locations will not get reliable digital signals all the time based on their geography and impulse noise issues. The lower parts of Bambil Road at Berowra spring to mind – low geographic location and plenty of trees (poor forward signal path), signals bouncing around from the ridges behind (reflections), and the electricity grid/power lines intercepting the reception path (external impulse noise).


Q: Will I need to replace my existing antenna or cabling to receive digital TV?
A: Possibly. In good reception areas with no strong signal reflections or interference, your existing analog designed antenna should work OK for digital channels (provided the cabling and connections are also OK). If you experience dropouts and pixilation on digital channels, a series of tests and measurements should be undertaken by a qualified antenna installer with correct digital signal measuring equipment. This will assist in determining what the cause of the drop outs are. Some common ones are: poor quality cabling, poor/old connections and signal splitting, signal reflections, external impulse noise, old amplifiers, poor antenna placement and/or direction, old or corroded antenna, wrong antenna, too much signal, not enough signal, not enough height.


Q: I live in Brooklyn/Mooney Mooney/ Cheero Point/Dangar Island or another poor TV reception area/blackspot and can’t receive any of the digital transmissions from my antenna. What are my options?
A: For those who have poor terrestrial reception there is a special digital satellite service available known as V.A.S.T (Viewer Access Satellite TV). This will get you all your local free to air channels. To qualify for this service, a site signal survey must be done and relevant forms submitted for each house (which I can do) which will then be considered and processed by the relevant broadcasters & authorities. If approved, you will then need a special V.A.S.T digital set top box (one per TV), a satellite dish and new cabling. Homes which already have a satellite dish for the Optus C1 satellite (such as Aurora, Austar or Foxtel) may only need the VAST box. Some may also require a new LNB signal receiver at the dish. (If you need me to come to your place by boat – no problems, I can make my own way, or you can pick me up from the wharf).