Take our DTV transition course to find out how to make the leap from analog to digital TV. Click here.
Digital Television (DTV) is a new type of broadcasting technology that offers lots of advantages over analog television, starting with better picture and sound quality. It also allows stations to telecast more programming using less of the broadcast spectrum.
With DTV, a broadcaster can provide several program channels using the same amount of bandwidth as one traditional analog channel—a process called multicasting. Instead of just having channel 7, for example, you now have channel 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3, each offering different programming. Cool, huh? In fact, many stations have already started broadcasting this way. So with the right equipment, you can get a clearer picture and multicast channels today in areas where they're available.* To watch these additional channels, you'll just need an antenna and a TV set with a built-in DTV tuner or converter box.
On February 17, 2009, many full-power broadcasters will stop sending out conventional "analog" television signals. However, a deadline extension has been passed that extends the cutoff date for the transition to June 12, 2009. After that date, full-power broadcasters will broadcast 100% digital television (DTV) signals that can be received only by digital TVs or converters. Low power broadcasters may continue to transmit their analog signals. Check with your local broadcasters to see when they‚Äôre making the switch.
In the 1990s, Congress saw the benefit of having TV stations make the transition from analog to digital broadcasting. Why? Well, the broadcast spectrum was getting crowded. To understand what that means, picture a radio that has a hundred stations between 97.1 and 97.3. On a radio like this, it would be really hard to tune in to the station you want. And if you wanted to start a radio station at 97.2, it would be really hard to find a space to broadcast without all the other stations drowning you out. The broadcast spectrum works in a similar way, and it's getting mighty crowded.
By converting all TV to DTV, Congress will free up parts (or "bands") of the broadcast spectrum, because a digital signal takes up less "space" than an analog signal. That means more room for public safety and emergency services like police, fire and medical. And more room for new services, like wireless.
So why the urgency? On February 11, 2009, the President signed the ‚ÄúDTV Delay Act,‚ÄĚ extending the DTV transition deadline from February 17 to June 12, 2009. The transition deadline has been extended because many Americans still do not have the converter boxes needed to receive digital television transmissions. Many stations will still switch on the February 17th date, with the remaining stations scheduled to switch between March and June. That means you may still be without some or all of your channels before the extended deadline. Get your converter box today to avoid having trouble!
It all depends on the source of your television programming. Namely, whether you get your signal through an antenna, or from a cable or satellite TV company. So let's take a look at the three most common situations.
YOU HAVE AN ANALOG TV AND USE AN ANTENNA
Sound a little daunting? Don't worry! Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households who want to keep using their analog TV sets after local stations have transitioned. The program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, which can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes (one coupon per converter box). For more information, or to apply for a coupon, please see the Learn More section below.
Don’t go to static. Pick up a digital converter box at your local RadioShack.
YOU ALREADY HAVE AN HDTV OR DTV WITH A DIGITAL TUNER (ATSC) AND RECEIVE ONLY FREE TV PROGRAMMING OVER THE AIR
YOU HAVE A SUBSCRIPTION TO A CABLE OR SATELLITE PROVIDER, AND ALL YOUR TELEVISIONS RECEIVE PROGRAMMING FROM THEM
You can check out the links below for more information about the DTV transition, the TV Converter Box Coupon Program and guides that will help you move your home entertainment system into the world of digital TV.
See how you can apply for TV converter box coupons.
Take a crash course in high-definition technology.
Determine which antenna you need to receive your local television broadcast channels.
*Analog TVs are not capable of displaying high-definition resolutions with a converter box, but the picture will generally be better with a TV converter box. If you want to view HDTV, you will need a newer TV rated for high-definition resolutions.