Digital Switchover 2012 For Aerials

Digital aerials, Freeview Aerial & DTT

The UK is switching to digital - the implications

For most of us, this is great news indeed. With over 50 TV channels and 24 radio channels, freeview digital or DTT , digital terrestrial television, offers vastly more choice of viewing and listening. Some argue that " there is enough rubbish on the box already". There is obvioulsy an element of truth in that, however for people that are willing to be more discerning about what they are viewing on TV, there are more niche interest channels, more news channels, documentaries, films and even new HD channels, the new high definition format that provides 4 times more detail than normal TV.

Aerial installations for freeview digital

This is where you often get Joe public or even aerial engineers misquoting the need for a 'digital aerial'. for TV, digital aerials do not exist. There defiintiely are criteria that you may need for digital aerial reception. However for now, do not believe that you 'need' a new digital aerial. It is a technique often used to try to get people to part with their hard earned money, when it may not be needed.

TV aerials and digital - The CAI recommendations

The CAI, the Confederation Of Aerial Industries are the oldest and main body that deal with regulations and standards within the aerial industry. The CAI state, as does the RDI, that aerials for digital should have a balun. This stands for balanced to unbalanced and matches the impedance of the cable and the aerial. To you and I, this only means that your 'digital aerial' (remember there is no such thing!) should have a certain type of cap on the top, to enable a good quality connection and makes for better digital compatibility. That word again. Compatibility.

CAI benchmarking and digital reception for a TV aerial

The CAI have a benchmarking scheme that tries to help, by categorising aerials and there properties. These standards fall into 4 main aerial categories:

  • Standard 1 Should provide acceptable DTT reception for homes on the edges of coverage areas.
  • Standard 2 This is an intermediate level suitable for use across the whole of a DTT coverage area.
  • Standard 3 This is minimum attainment level for primary service coverage areas
  • Standard 4 Is a standard for a specific design of aerial where tighter narrow beamwidth is needed along with wideband performance.

CAI benchmarked TV aerials have written on them: CAI benchmarked.

CAI benchmarking for cables

There are lots of parameters that the cables need to perform to. The basics are that they are copper foil and copper screen. In other words a double screen cable, that has written on it CAI benchmarked and is a minimum CT100 size. Larger diameter cables are normally used only on larger aerial and satellite communal systems.

Domestic aerial installations for digital

As long as an aerial installer knows properly how to measure signals, carrier noise ratios and BER (bit error rate), there should rarely be any major problem overcoming even the most difficult aerial installation for digital reception. As long as your aerial engineer can spend the time to resolve any issues, there should rarely be any need to go back and correct any faults. However, even the most diligent aerial installer can come accross an installation for digital that is perfect when they leave your premises and then the picture deteriorates practically as soon as they leave! Very frustrating for all concerned.

Communal aerial systems & digital

Now with communal systems a lot starts to change. Again, the so called digital aerial specifically does not exist. However, digital signal compatability is far more important now with communal aerial systems!

Communal aerial systems back in the good old days often used what we term T & branch systems, that distributed aerial signals to each apartment, looping from one apartment to another, from one main branch. These systems again may well work, but can be problematic for digital signals to pass through everywhere correctly. Some tenants may well have perfect aerial signals, others may have badly pixelating channels accross the board, or maybe just one or two channels. Either way, thsi can be very frustrating.

Communal aerial upgrades

It is estimated that there will not be enough time to upgrade and install all the blocks of flats to receive digital signals between now and March 2012. Most local authorities, a lot of housing associations and some larger private landlords are already on board or have a planned program of works to be ready by 2012.

The main group that will have problems are the smaller housing associations that still have not planned a prgram of works, the smaller private landolords and managing agents  and the residents that have a shared responsibility in the management of their own blocks. This group we are finding, are sitting on their hands and waiting. They may however be  waiting too long and will have find they will run out of time to get their aerial system sorted out in time for 2012, or, if when everything switches, that their TV works. We will have to wait and see how this pans out.

Not all communal aerial systems will need to be upgraded at all however, particularly if your aerial system is less than 6 years old.

Some aerial systems will only need to change one or 2 bits of electronics, maybe the amplifier and/or the aerial equaliser to a digital cluster leveller. This can be done relatively easily and the cost divided up by all of the residents will be minimal normally.

Aerial Installations for digital TV  - conclusion

The switch to digital offers far more choice and value for us all. If you feel like your reception is not good, or can be improved, then ensure you source a reputable aerial installation company to give you honest advice. The cheapest quote may not offer you the best value. Indeed, it often does not. see Who your chosen aerial company have worked for and ask them about 'digital aerials'. See what their response is to 'digital aerials', that may well tell you a lot about the knowledge and integrity of the company. Good luck!

For further information contact Aerial Concepts Ltd.

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