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How To Get Into Digital TV

Perhaps you are blissfully unaware of it - but the Australian Government plans to progressively switch off all analog TV transmitters, starting in less than two years time. And High Definition digital TV programs are now being shown on "free to air" commercial, ABC and SBS TV. Those programs are not available via Standard Definition digital tuners or set-top boxes. So what do you need to do?

By Alan Hughes

You might have seen adverts on the Seven & Ten network stating that their new High Definition (HD) TV programs are now available. New Zealand is also converting, with HD Digital on air in all major population centres, ready for the start of the Beijing Olympics on 8th August 2008.

Perhaps you have been thinking that you will be able to get the new HD programs with your existing standard definition (SD) set-top box (STB) or SD digital tuner. Well, think again. It doesn’t work that way.

If you want to see HD programs, you will need an HD tuner, even if your present display cannot show them in the needle-sharp focus of HD.

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You'll need an HD set-top box if your TV doesn't have one built in. But don't despair: they won't cost an arm and a leg! This Tevion brand HD STB was on sale earlier this year for less than $100 (see the review in this issue). And we've seen them for $50 or less on eBay!

In Australia there are HD and SD receivers. SD programming will eventually die out with the advent of HD-only programming but an HD STB can produce an SD signal for analog receivers. So even if you decide to stay with your present analog TV set, it will still be possible to watch all the new high-definition free-to-air programs, provided that you have an HD STB.

The clock is definitely ticking on analog TV broadcasts. Senator Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has set the switch-off date for metropolitan analog TV as December 2009, with all analog transmissions to cease by 2013.

So there is no escaping it, if you want free-to-air TV programs in the near future, you are going to have to "go digital" and realistically, that means "go HD".

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