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TONY LAYZELL - Digital Television Solutions
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What is digital switchover?


Television in the UK is changing from the current analogue system to digital transmission only. This means that unless you adjust your television to receive digital signals you will not get any TV channels in future. This is called digital switchover. It will happen between 2008 and 2012. You still have plenty of time to switch to digital viewing, however about 66 per cent of UK households already use digital television.

What is digital switchover and why is it happening?

Digital switchover is the conversion of television broadcasting from analogue to digital. It will take place region by region between 2008 and 2012. After the switch in your region, you'll need to convert or upgrade every TV set you continue to watch.

After switchover, as well as the current channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five), you'll have an added choice of digital channels including BBC 3, BBC 4, ITV2, ITV3, E4, More4, CBBC, Cbeebies and BBC News 24.

Why is the switchover happening?

The switchover will mean that more people will be able to enjoy the benefits of digital TV and will make a wide range of digital television options more affordable. Until digital switchover is complete, about one in four UK households can't get the full range of digital TV services available free through an aerial, and one in five UK households cannot get Five through their aerial.

Digital switchover will make sure the best available technology is in use. It will also make space for new services like high definition TV and broadcasting to mobile phones.

When is the digital switchover happening?

Digital switchover will take place TV region by TV region starting with the Border TV region in 2008 and ending in Ulster around 2012. This is the confirmed timetable for switchover:

TV Region



2008, second half

West Country

2009, first half

HTV Wales

2009, second half


2009, second half

HTV West

2010, first half


2010, first half

Scottish Television

2010, first half


2011, first half


2011, first half


2011, first half


2012, first half

Carlton / LWT (London)

2012, first half

Tyne Tees

2012, second half


2012, second half

You will get plenty of notice before services in your area are affected and plenty of advice on what to do through various media - but you could start thinking about your digital TV options today.

How much will it cost?

Going digital can be simple and inexpensive. Most households have a choice of options and can weigh up the services they want against what they want to spend.

Most existing TV sets can be adapted with a digital box, with basic digital boxes starting at around £40. Contact your local electrical goods shop or TV rental company for more information on products available and how to connect them. Alternatively you can replace your old TV with one that has a decoder built into it, known as an integrated digital TV set or iDTV.

Between two and ten per cent of households are likely to need a new aerial. Again, there are a large variety of available options.

Will switching to digital affect TV licences?

If you need a TV licence today, you will still need one after digital switchover.  The cost is the same and you don't need a separate licence to watch digital television.

More questions answered

What happens to old television sets?

Contact your local council or Recyclenow to find out about recycling any television sets you don't want, or think about other places where it might be needed, like a local schools technology department. You could give working sets that are suitable for digital conversion to charity. If your television doesn't work any more and you want it to be disposed of by your local council, contact them to pick it up from your door as part of their bulky waste collection service.

Will video recorders still work with digital TV signals? 

You will be able to use your current video recorder unless you want to watch one programme while recording another. Then you will need to get a digital recorder.

The range of digital recorders (often called 'Personal Video Recorders' or PVRs) is expanding all the time ask you local retailer for more information. 

If you have more than one TV in the house will they all need to be converted for digital?   

Every TV set in your home that you want to use to watch TV broadcasts can receive digital TV.  Any TV set that you use only to play back videotapes or DVDs, or with a games console, will not need to be converted.



Video On Demand - Connected TV
Okay, so there’s nothing especially new about Video On Demand (VOD) but the big players in TV are certain that 2011 will be the year it becomes big news.

Both Sky and Virgin Media have just realised new boxes that place a greater emphasis on Video On Demand than ever before. First off is a subtle change of name. Less often referred to as Video On Demand, these days the service providers prefer to talk about, ‘connected TV’. Either way, what’s on offer isn’t really new in any respect. Connected TV means watching internet TV channels on your TV - with the BBC iPlayer proving exceptionally popular - and watching a wider range of paid for movies on demand than before. In short, it’s not so much about new technology as bringing everything together in one, thus edging out the need for us to watch Internet TV on a home PC or renting films on DVD or Blu-ray.

As mentioned, Sky and Virgin Media are going to be big on Connected TV in 2011 but it won’t come cheap. Virgin require around £200 for the hardware and a further £26.50 per month for its, admittedly impressive, TiVo powered XL service. Sky Anytime + doesn’t cost any extra per month but downloading films does come off Sky Broadband monthly allowance meaning that, in effect, Sky Broadband Unlimited is essential at an additional £7.50 per month; plus, of course, your usual Sky TV costs.

If you like the idea of connected TV but don’t fancy paying a monthly tariff and aren’t bothered about paying for video on demand (which most of us aren’t) then it’s well worth investigating what Humax will have to offer. Already market leaders in both freesat HD, Freeview HD receivers and PVRs, Humax reckon to be launching connected TV systems in January 2011. This will allow some of their existing and new set-top boxes to stream catch-up services such as iPlayer, Sky TV, YouTube and more. Later in the year they hope to add further applications such as Twitter and Facebook, meaning that you can stay connected without having to switch between TV and PC or mobile. Furthermore, some of their boxes will be also be able to stream, via DLNA, content from your home PC or NAS drive - using your home network.

Whether you choose Virgin Media, Sky or free access TV from Humax, one thing’s for sure: the chances are that your PC will spend more time switched off in 2011!


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