On February 17, 2009, all airwave transmissions of analog television will cease. This has been dubbed digital-day or DTV-day. With less than two years to go, there are several issues that you need to be aware of for a smooth transition to the world of digital television.
First of all, the United States government has set up a special Web site with lots of information about the mandated transition to digital television. The bad news with the transition is that your old analog televisions will no longer work as of February 17, 2009 because the old analog signals will no longer be transmitted. The good news is that the old sets will work if you purchase a digital-to-analog converter box, which allows the old technology to work with the new digital signal. Each analog television will require a converter box. The government does have a program in place to allow low income people to buy the converter boxes at a discounted price.
The converter box should only apply to television sets receiving over-the-air signals via antenna. You should not need a converter if you subscribe to cable television or a satellite service, unless the service decides to convert all of their transmissions to digital. At this point, it is assumed that most cable and satelite companies will offer bother services, but that is not a certainty. You will probably still need a converter is you wish to subscribe to high definition television services for reasons detailed below.
The new law also requires that any television sold in the USA after March 1, 2007 must include an ATSC digital tuner. If you are planning to buy a new television, it should not need a converter box.
DTV is Not the Same as HD-TV
HD-TV is high definition television. HD-TV is an enhanced version of DTV. Not all digital television signals will be in high definition formats. Because of this, you may still need to subscribe to a high definition service through your cable or satellite provider, which may require the use of a High definition cable or satellite box. The following is a summary of the different types of digital television transmissions.
Standard Digital Television (SDTV) This is the basic level for digital television transmission. The resolution is 480i (704 x 480 interlaced), which means that there are 480 horizontal lines of pixel resolution displayed. SDTV is not HDTV.
Enhanced Digital Television (EDTV) EDHTV is kind of a hybrid. It does not meet the standard for high definition television, but it is reported to be better than standard digital television. EDTV also uses 480 horizontal lines of pixel resolution, but the resolution is enhanced with the number of pixels on each line (853 x 480 progressive) and a progressive scan is utilized to further enhance picture quality. EDTV is not HDTV.
High Definition Digital Television (HDTV) The minimum resolution to meet the HD-TV standard is 720 horizontal lines of pixel resolution. There are three current standards for HDTV, including 720p (1280 x 720 progressive), 1080i (1920 x 1080 interlaced) and 1080p (1920 x 1080 progressive). The 1080p standard delivers the highest quality of all high definition formats. If you are looking for the very best picture quality, focus on a set that utilizes the 1080i standard.
Why Not Allow the Transmission of Both Analog and Digital Television Signals?
The answer to this is simple and it is the reason as to why the government has placed a deadline on the conversion of the signals. The government expects to pull in billions of dollars in revenue when it auctions off the old analog frequencies. In fact, this anticipated revenue is a factor in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and will be applied toward that goal.
Also, you should be aware that you will need to upgrade your old DVD equipment in order to enjoy the benefits of high definition. If you have a large collection of standard DVDs, you can purchace one of the newer “upconverting” DVD players, which simulates the 1080i high definition standard when used with HDMI connectors and a 1080i or 1080p television. Make sure that any upconverting DVD player that you buy has this type of connector. Check out our high definition television terminology page for more information.