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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Digital Television & TV Aerials

What is Digital Television?

Read on and have your questions answered

1. What is the main difference between analogue TV and digital TV?
Digital technology allows a signal to be compressed into a smaller bandwidth.
This allows more data to be sent in the same bandwidth thereby allowing for more channels to be broadcast.
For example, 8 new Digital TV channels can be provided in the same bandwidth as one analogue channel.

2. What do the terms Analogue and Digital mean?
An analogue signal can have any number of values. A digital signal can have only the values zero or one. A digital signal can be more easily corrected of errors caused by unwanted electronic noise than can an analogue signal. This is why an analogue TV picture like SABC becomes gradually more snowy as the signal weakens whereas a digital TV picture like DSTV remains perfect while the signal weakens until a level is reached where the error correction electronics can no longer function, at which point the picture freezes.

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3. What is the difference between digital terrestrial television (DTT) and satellite television?
These are simply different ways of broadcasting a signal. Satellite television broadcasts from a satellite in space from which you receive via a satellite dish that is mounted to your house. Digital Terrestrial Television uses transmitters on the ground to broadcast the signal which you then receive using a TV aerial and set top box.

4. What is digital terrestrial television (DTT)?
Digital Terrestrial Television refers to the use of a network of TV transmission towers on earth as opposed to satellites in space to broadcast digital as opposed to analogue signals.
SABC, e.tv and M-Net are analogue signals broadcast terrestrially. DSTV and Top TV are digital signals broadcast from satellite.

5. When people talk about “ digital migration” or “digital switchover” – what do they mean?
This is the process of moving from an analogue to a digital TV broadcast.


6. Why do we need to change from analogue to digital TV?

In keeping with other countries and advancing technological developments worldwide, the government has decided to migrate from analogue TV to digital.
The benefits of digital TV broadcasting include:

  1. Excellent picture quality
  2. Clearer sound
  3. More channels
  4. A digital TV guide which can be easily updated for more accurate schedules.
  5. Interactive services like games or the Weather channel.
  6. Picture quality which does not deteriorate with a weaker TV aerial signal. Your TV picture will either be perfect or you will have no picture at all. No more snowy pictures.
  7. Allows transmission of high definition (HD 1080) TV pictures


7. What equipment do I need to watch DTT
When South Africa goes digital, everyone currently using a TV aerial will need a decoder (also called a set top box or STB) which will decode the digital signal. Without a STB (similar to M-Net decoder), your TV won’t be able to display the digital television picture.

8. Does that mean I need a new M-Net decoder?
Yes – your current M-Net decoder is an analogue decoder and will have to be replaced with a digital decoder.

9. What is an integrated digital television ?
In the next few years it may be possible to buy a TV with a decoder built into the TV. These are called integrated digital televisions because the decoder is integrated. These are not yet available in South Africa.

10. Will I need a new TV aerial?
Probably not. Some viewers may need new TV aerials and in some instances TV aerials may only need to be adjusted. Whether or not you need a new TV aerial or an adjustment to your existing TV aerial will depend how good the DTT signal is in your area.

11. Will I need three STB's: One for SABC, one for e.tv and one for M-Net ?
No, only one - Your STB will be able to receive digital channels from all licensed South African broadcasters. Even if you unsubscribe from M-Net, your STB will still receive digital channels from SABC and e.tv.

12. When is digital TV starting?
Field trials for DTT started in November 2008. The SABC and e.tv tested free-to-air digital transmissions while M-Net tested PayTV digital transmissions on a selected group of viewers. Further tests will now take place in the new DVB-T2 format. Watch the media for announcements on when digital TV starts for the general public.

13. Why is digital switchover taking so long?
Government announced in 2008 that we would be using the DVB-T format for our digital terrestrial television. In 2010 government called for a review to consider the ISDB-T format. This, despite two previous reviews in a consultation process that began in 2000 and investment of R250 million by independant broadcasters in the DVB-T system. Finally (we hope) in January 2011 the minister of communications announced the decision to use the DVB-T2 format.

14. When will the set tob box be available for purchase?
Set top boxes for the DVB-T2 format of DTT are already available in England. They will be on sale in South Africa as soon as DTT is broadcast to the general public. Watch the media for an official announcement.

15. When will it affect me?
December 2013 was the date set by government to discontinue analogue broadcasts, but arguments about using a set top box which can cut off a user's signal if he doesn't pay his Tv license have delayed this. The International Telecommunication Union (I.T.U.) have set June 2015 as the date beyond which analogue TV broadcasts will not be protected from interference. Whether our government has the ability to meet this deadline remains to be seen.

16. If I’m a DSTV or TopTV subscriber, what do I need to do?
Nothing.The changeover to DTT only affects broadcasts received on a TV aerial. DSTV and TopTV received on a satellite dish are already in digital format.

17. Will I be able to watch DTT if I only have a satellite dish?
No, will you will need to have a TV aerial installed and a STB connected to your DSTV system if you also want to watch DTT programs.

18. If I have three TV sets in the house, will I need three STB's?
Only if you want each TV set to show different channels at the same time, otherwise one STB will be able to display the same program on multiple TV's provided your TV aerial wiring is correct.

19. Do I need a high definition TV for this switchover to DTT?
HD television is not required to watch digital broadcasts, but if the programme content was recorded in High Definition the user of HD Television will see improved clarity and detail which was never possible on analogue broadcasts.

20. What do I do if my set top box does not provide a good quality TV picture?
This could be caused by a faulty TV aerial or TV wiring or signal reception problems such as multipath error. Call us on 012-664 5223 to correctly install your STB or adjust your TV aerial or supply a new TV aerial installation in Pretoria or Centurion.

COMMON ABBREVIATIONS USED IN DIGITAL TV

 

ABBREVIATION TERM DEFINITION
BDM Broadcasting Digital Migration It refers to the process currently underway to change from analogue to digital broadcasting, this is the term used by the Department of Communications in their policy.
BSD Broadcast Signal Distribution Broadcasting signals that are intended for public reception.
DSTV Digital Satellite Television A method of transmitting TV programs from satellite in digital format. Also a trademark of the Multichoice company which offers this service.
DTT Digital Terrestrial Television It refers to the broadcasting of terrestrial television in a digital format.
DVB Digital Video Broadcasting Consortium of more than 300 organisations and manufacturers making global standards for broadcast of digital television.
DVB-T2 Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial 2nd generation A method of digital signal transmission which is a standard format of DTT.
EPG Electronic Program Guide A guide showing programmes that can be displayed on a TV set using an STB. It displays programmes or TV schedule for a day or more at a time. It also includes search and reminder functions .
FTA Free To Air Television Channels A list of services or bouquet provided by a broadcaster that do not require a person to pay a subscription in order to view.
HDTV High Definition Television A high quality television standard that has greater resolution than standard definition and provides better and more detailed picture quality eg. Blu Ray DVD.
ICASA Independent Communications Authority of South Africa The Telecommunications and broadcasting industries’ regulatory body in South Africa.
IDTV Integrated Digital Television A TV set with a built- in receiver which carries out the functions of a set top box. Such a TV would not need a set top box to display the free to air services.
LCD Liquid Crystal Display The technology by which most modern flat screen TV's operate. It involves transparent crystals twisting the polarity of the light which passes through them.
LED Light Emitting Diode A semiconductor device which emits light when a current is passed through it in one direction only. They are used as the light source in the latest slim line LCD television sets.
RCU Remote Control Unit The wireless handheld device which allows control of a TV, STB, DSTV decoder, etc. at a distance.
RF Radio Frequency An electromagnetic signal which travels through space from the broadcast transmitter to the TV aerial or satellite dish of the receiver. The TV picture and sound information are carried by this radio frequency signal.
SDTV Standard Definition Television Is a digital television format that provides a picture quality similar to digital versatile disk (DVD) - not Blu Ray.
STB Set top box A device that converts digital broadcasts received to analogue video and audio for viewing on a television set.

 

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