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Are you ready for Digital Television ?

Digital TV has transformed the way that we view television programmes with more choice than ever before via more providers and more choice of delivery method and interactive features. It can be received from a terrestrial broadcast using an aerial or a satellite dish, cable, phone line or the internet. There are also programmes that are available with and without a monthly subscription or contract. The type of programmes that you will receive will depend on how much you are willing to pay and the type of programmes that you want to view. On top of this there are also high definition channels that are free or monthly subscription charges or contracts.

There are free channels available from the BBC's and ITV's Freesat, Sky's Freesat, Freeview, and Virgin Media's cable service if you rent a phone line. Monthly subscription services are available from Sky Digital, Virgin Media, BT Vision and Tiscali TV.

Freeview television

Freeview digital television broadcasts are replacing the normal analogue terrestrial television broadcasts received by an aerial throughout the UK. To receive Freeview you will first of all need to be in an area where it is available and then you will have to have a suitable aerial and either a Freeview set top box or a television with freeView built in. Apart from having to pay the UK television licence Freeview is free of any other charges and offers 48 channels of television and 24 channels of radio.

The much publicised Digital Switch Over involves using the Freeview digital channels instead of the old analogue channels which are being switched off region by region around the UK. This process will be completed by about 2012. As this happens any equipment that doesnít have a digital tuner will need an external set top box or they will be obsolete. This includes Video Recorders, DVD recorders and Televisions. Alternatively you may decide to replace them with new models that have built in Freeview tuners.

The Digital Switch Over might not affect you if you are currently receiving all of your television programmes via Freesat, BT Vision, or Tiscali in which case you wonít need to do anything.

Top Up TV

Top Up TV adds additional channels to the standard channels that are available from Freeview using your existing Freeview compatible aerial. For 9.99 three channels are added namely a sports channel a movie channel and an On Demand channel that stores programmes on the hard drive of your set top PVR which can then be viewed when you choose. No further equipment is required other than a card that is slotted into your existing Set Top Box PVR.

Virgin Media's Cable TV

If you want to receive your digital television programmes by cable you will need to check that you are in an area where cable is available. Then you will need to choose which programme selection you want to pay for each month. The cable television provider will then install the cable to your house and provide the set top cable TV receiver box. You will need a cable TV receiver box for every TV you want to view cable TV on in your house. The basic package offers over 45 channels and is free if you rent a Virgin phone line. Over 165 channels are available for 19.50 per month if you rent a Virgin phone line. Often discounts are available for additional boxes but this can still be quite expensive.

Virgin media also offer an on demand service where you can access a huge library of programmes and movies some are provided free and some are available on a pay per view basis. Some of the on demand content is in HD.

Sky Digital Television

Sky Digital Television is received by means of a Satellite dish and set top box. It is available on a monthly subscription basis. Unlike Cable TV, Sky Digital is available to virtually every home in the UK as long as the dish can be appropriately fixed and positioned.

You probably wont be able to have a satellite dish installed if you live in an apartment, high rise flats or a building that has planning restrictions prohibiting satellite dishes. Also if live next to a large building or Trees that prevents the required position and angle of installation for the satellite dish then you wont be able to have a satellite dish installed.

The satellite dish is connected to a set top box that is connected to your television set. For every television that you want to watch Sky Digital on you will need an addition set top box and you may need a further satellite dish depending on how many connectors are available on the LNB of the satellite dish. There are also extra costs for each set top box and additional monthly charges which can work out fairly expensive if you have many televisions in your house.

There is usually a charge for providing and installing the satellite dish and the set top box. Sky packages start from 16.50 per month with a free set top box and 60 for the dish and installation offering over 200 channels. If you opt for all the channels available from Sky you will receive over 630 channels of TV and Radio channels at a cost of 46 per month with an installation charge of 60 for a standard box and 30 for Sky Plus set top box. Sky also offers the widest selection of HD channels at an additional cost of 9.75 per month.

If this isnt enough choice then there is also an On Demand Service known as Sky Anytime for watching a small selection of movies, documentaries and entertainment channels that are stored locally on the Sky Plus set top box. Furthermore Sky Box Office offers some of the latest films On Demand for a small additional charge. There is also an on demand service where you can download films to the hard drive on your PC. You can either view them on your PC or you can copy them on to a DVD to watch on the DVD player that is connected to your TV. Alternatively if you have a Media Centre attached to your television then you can stream the movies directly from your PC to your TV.

Freesat Television

Freesat television broadcasts are available in two forms one provided by Sky and the other from a joint venture of the BBC and ITV. Both options require a satellite dish and set top box. The BBC and ITV version can also be received by a television with an integrated Freesat tuner. The installation of the satellite dish is subject to the same possible problems as detailed in the Sky Digital TV paragraph above. There aren't any monthly subscription charges but you have to pay for the Set Top Box, Dish and installation. If you already have a Sky satellite dish with unused connections then you wonít need to pay for a dish and installation.

High definition channels are available free of monthly subscription on the Freesat from the BBC and ITV. To receive HD you will need to make sure that you buy a HD Freesat set top box.

Freesat set top boxes for the BBC and ITV version are available from 49 and 129 with a Satellite Dish and installation. The standard set top boxes have a standard definition picture and provide over 140 television channels that are free of monthly subscription. The Freesat HD set top boxes on their own start from 129 and about 229 if bought with a dish that is installed. If a Freesat compatible TV is purchased then you will still need the satellite dish but not the set top box.

The Sky Freesat option is available installed with a one off payment of about 75 and offers over 240 free TV channels but there arent any free high definition channels.

BT Vision Television

BT Vision is an on demand service that offers Freeview and on demand TV shows and movies. The content is provided via broadband and requires a BT Home Hub router (which is free to BT broadband customers) which is connected to a phone line and a wireless receiver is connected to the television.

There are various options of program bundles of Kids programmes, sports, music and a number of films, that include 40 channels of Freeview, that are available from 13.70 monthly up to 19.57 monthly. However you donít have to subscribe for any of the bundles you can just use BT vision on pay per view basis each time you watch a programme or film. If you donít have BT Broadband then there is an installation charge of 29.36 for the BT Home Hub router and wireless receiver and another 29.36 for the supply of the equipment.

Tiscali TV

Tiscali television is only available in certain areas of the country via a phone line with broadband and possibly an aerial. The Tiscali television service offers in excess of 70 channels of digital TV channels and digital radio channels and in excess of 1000 on demand programmes, Movies and Music. The basic offering starts from 19.99 per month and includes 8Mb broadband and telephone line rental with on demand movies charged per view.

Fetch Television

Fetch television has over 48 channels of Freeview digital television channels and digital radio as well as the ability to be able to stream movies and programmes from your computers hard drive in high definition if available. This is done via a Fetch set top box with a Freeview PVR and integrated high definition home media centre which start from 129.99. The Freeview is without any monthly charges or contracts, the movies and programmes are chargeable for each download if applicable. Once you have downloaded the programmes or films to your PC the Fetch television Set top box is able to stream it directly to your TV.

IP Television and Television On Demand

There are many programmes and movies that can be downloaded via broadband to your PC and then you can copy them to a DVD disc or it can be wirelessly streamed to a media centre that is connected to your television. There are high definition programmes and films that can down loaded via the internet. Television broadcasters such as the BBC, Sky, ITV and many other UK and Worldwide television companies now have content that is available to be downloaded when you choose. Some of this content is free of charge and some chargeable.

Conclusion

The options are almost endless with so many choices. Some of these choices may not be an option but nonetheless the choice is greater than ever before with delivery by Cable, Satellite Dish, Phone Line, Broadband, and Aerial. Whether you are prepared to pay a monthly charge may narrow the options but if you are then you also have to decide if you are prepared to pay extra for HD television broadcasts. IP television offers an interesting possibility but is restricted by our creaking copper cables ability to deliver the content fast enough and reliably enough. To benefit from all of the advantages of Digital Television you will also need a high definition LCD television or Plasma television.

Next article: Plasma vs LCD vs LED
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