From the every early days of television, the TV signal was analogue and that was very capable up until very recently. Now however, the demand for many more TV channels along with better signal quality and technology has led to the introduction of the digital TV signal. The digital signal is much more stable offering top quality pictures on your TV set. Entire nations are now switching over to the digital signal; in particular The United Kingdom went totally digital by 2012.
The old analogue TVs will not be able to read the new digital signal, so if you have one, either you will need to replace your TV set or get a compatible signal converter box, with the latter connected to your TV via a SCART cable. Many of the television companies are now using cable or satellite to deliver their signals to households, although the aerial is still very abundant. TV aerials are now also available as digital aerials to receive the digital signal that the terrestrial TV stations are broadcasting in.
Freeview is an over the air broadcasting system for the UK, that as the name suggests is free. Typically received via an aerial, Freeview consists of 40 channels. New televisions usually come with a Freeview receiver already built in or if you still have an analogue TV you can get a TV set top box to convert the signal to digital.
To receive Freeview on your television set, you may need to have a new aerial installed, or your existing one repointed. Once set up, there will be no monthly subscription charge; you can watch as much TV as you want.
The top TV broadcasters in the UK make several of their channels available on Freeview. They include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Dave.
Digital Terrestrial TV in the UK
If you use an TV aerial, it will receive its signal from a transmitter. In the UK, there are more than 1,150 transmitters organised into around 80 transmitter groups that will switch to digital one by one. Each group has a main switchover transmitter and local relay transmitters.
Before switchover, local relay transmitters are only able to transmit an analogue TV signal. After switchover, for the first time, local relay transmitters will transmit a digital signal and increase the number of channels available from around 5 to around 20.
The switchover date and the number of channels you receive will depend on which transmitter you are watching. Signals from nearby transmitters often overlap, so you may have a choice of which one you can watch. One may give you a better signal than another, or increase the number of services you can receive.
If you are watching a main transmitter you will receive more than 40 digital channels. If you are watching a relay transmitter you will receive around 20 digital TV channels.
The UK Digital TV service is called Freeview.
Freeview is a free digital TV service. To get Freeview there is a one-off payment for the digital box or digital TV, with no monthly subscription. Standard digital boxes start from around £25. Integrated digital TVs (iDTV) that have Freeview built in are available from around £100 to £3,500.
Freeview+, Freeview’s digital TV recorder allows you to record one channel whilst watching another, pause live TV and record your favourite programmes at the touch of a button. Freeview+ boxes which include a digital TV recorder start at around £80.
Freeview equipment is a self-stall service. You connect your digital box to your existing TV and rooftop aerial or just connect the digital TV direct to your rooftop aerial. In some cases your aerial may need upgrading.
Do I need to buy a new TV for Freeview?
The short answer is No! – Any TV can be successfully made ready for the BBC and ITV digital switchover. However it will need to be connected to a digital receiver, a Freeview set top box receiver or a TV with a Freeview digital tuner built in.