Q: How can I pick up Over The Air (OTA) Digital and HDTV broadcasts?
A: There are currently 3 ways to pick up your local stations:
- An over the Air only digital receiver that will tune in only the local channels. A unit with HD outputs can be purchased at any electronics chain for about $99-$199. One advantage to this is there will be no monthly fees. Note: for $40 -$60, coupon eligible converter boxes will pick up the HDTV signals and down convert them to 480I in order to be displayed on an analog TV.
- An HDTV with a built in OTA tuner. Note: All TVs made after 2007 should have an ATSC built in. (If your TV says “HD ready” it does not have a digital tuner built in).
- An HD satellite tuner. Both Dish Network and Direct TV offer HDTV satellite receivers with the over the air tuner built into the same unit. The advantage of using this method is that there is no need to utilize separate equipment to receive premium HD networks like HBO HD and ShowTime HD. Also, the local and satellite channels can both be integrated into the program guide, to make it seamless for the viewer when switching between local and satellite. You will need an over the air antenna (like the ones we sell) as well as the dish connected to the receiver. These receivers can cost anywhere from $199- $499 although with specials & promotions it is often possible to find them for much less. (Note: some DirecTV units now require a separate ATSC tuning module)
Q: Are all Digital Channels on UHF?
A: No, but currently (prior to June 2009), 91% of broadcasting DTV stations are on UHF. A few cities, such as Chicago and Las Vegas have DTV stations on VHF as well as UHF. While Many DTV stations are now occupying UHF broadcast channels, the plan will allow some broadcasters to move back to their original VHF or UHF TV channels once the transition to DTV is complete. After June of 2009: 74% of the DTV stations will be on UHF (14-51), 24% will be on high VHF (7-13) and less than 2% will be on Low VHF(2-6). For more information, please visit .
Q: How is reception in distant or "fringe" areas? Will I get a fuzzy picture?
A: When it comes to digital television, it's an "all or nothing at all" proposition. Once the signal is acquired, a steady stream of data assures you'll get a perfect picture and great audio. If that bit stream is interrupted, however, there will be nothing - just a blank screen. In areas with lots of buildings or obstacles, multi-path distortion can cause a "cliff effect" to kick in. The fix is to use a higher-gain antenna assuming the multi-path can be tamed. Work is being done to determine the optimal designs for improving error correction in set-top receivers.
Q: How do analog TV broadcasts and DTV compare to each other?
A: There are some similarities. Both use VHF and UHF broadcast frequencies. While analog and digital television broadcasts have a modulated carrier wave, the way that signal is modulated is entirely different. Analog TV uses an amplitude-modulated (AM) signal for pictures and frequency modulation (FM) for audio, while DTV signals use digital "packets", to transmit pictures and audio.
The modulation system currently being used for DTV in the United States is Eight Level Vestigial Sideband (8VSB). As Terrestrial Digital / HDTV broadcasts become more prominent, UHF antennas will play a larger role because the majority of the HDTV/Digital channel allocations will be in the UHF frequency band.
Q: Getting VHF stations are a problem for me. I get everything else fine.
A: Many stations that have reverted to VHF assignments have dramatically cut their transmitter power, in some cases by over 90%! Some stations mistakenly thought they could save money by cutting their power while reaching the same number of viewers. In other cases the FCC imposed reduced power limits to stations that reverted to their old VHF assignments in order to prevent interference with adjacent markets. There has been a misperception among some station owners that while dramatically lowering DTV transmitter power, they could serve the same coverage area as analog, and this has turned out to be incorrect. Many stations who have reverted back to VHF are now finding themselves with significantly reduced coverage areas and fewer viewers after switching to VHF. Many stations realizing their mistake have applied for higher power assignments (or UHF channel assignments) from the FCC, but the process could take over a year. In the interim, a new high gain high VHF antenna, the Clearstream 5 will be forthcoming. This may replace on the receive side some of what has been lost. The Clearstream 5 has an expected ship date of late June 2009.
One potential problem with re-using low VHF (2-6) and high VHF (7-13) TV channels for DTV is the possibility of interference from other signals during certain times of the year. "Skip" may bring in distant broadcasts on the same channel and create interference. Low VHF (2-6) digital broadcasts are particularly prone to interference and is often hard to receive reliably, regardless of what model of antenna is used. Note: The physical size of low VHF and high VHF antennas is much larger than that of a UHF antenna.
Q: What is a Yagi?
A: The Yagi antenna is credited to Hidetsugu Yagi (although not the original inventor), A Japanese physicist. The Yagi was designed to improve the gain of the antenna concentrated in one direction. The directivity is accomplished with added elements called directors and reflectors. The Yagi has high Gain, is very directional, and has narrow bandwidth. In simple unidirectional antennas like the Yagi, frequency bandwidth is inversely proportional to antenna gain. One way to increase the frequency bandwidth of a simple antenna like a Yagi, is to increase the diameter of the antenna conductors. The greater the conductor diameter, the wider the band with increased conductor diameter also...