DTV: The Digital TV Transition

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DTV: The dawning of a new viewing era

WE are entering a new era of television­. With a boom in the sale of 3DTVs predicted for this year, and the switching from analogue­ to digital television now postponed until 2013, surely this signals that things can only get better. But what does it mean for the end user?

Some feel that before we had the chance to upgrade our sets to HD-ready TVs, out came 3D-ready ones. They may feel that they now need to purchase digital­-ready TVs.

Fortunately this isn’t quite the case. The analogue signal (which is transmitted in a similar manner to radio­) will eventually be phased out; but before that happens, TV viewers with analogue TVs will still be able to pick up digital broadcasts after installing a Set-Top-Box (STB). These convert digital signals into analogue signals so that they may be viewed on older, analogue­ TV sets.

The Digital TV Transition


“But what’s so great about going digital?” I hear you shout. The format and efficiency of digital broadcasts over analogue­ ones not only offer better picture and sound quality, but also frees up space on the broadcasting spectrum — allowing broadcasters to offer far more channels than before.

“DTV (digital television) also offers multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities. Also, some of the spectrum can now be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).” —

So in a nutshell, more channel choices­ with better quality broadcasts and even more interactive shows will be an offer with DTV. It has also been mentioned that the number of local SABC channels will increase from three to more than 10.

So while we may not need to upgrade our boxes in order to view digital broadcasts, if we wish to enjoy the full benefits of digital TV, including improved picture and sound quality, we will need to by entirely new TV sets. The same applies if we wish to enjoy HD, Blue-Ray or 3D broadcasts. We may be able to view them, but not at the quality in which they were intended.

The 3DTV Transition

So what of 3DTV? Being the new kid on the box, 3DTV broadcasts are still expensive to make and therefore expensive to view properly. Largely as a result of this, 3DTV has been separated into two categories — active and passive TV technology.

In both cases, 3D glasses are required to view 3DTV. However, with passive TV technology, one has to sit in a particular position without much leeway to move around in order to view the picture in 3D. The cheaper glasses essentially divide­ the image into two. A single frame is filtered for each eye. So essentially you are seeing the image at half its original resolution.

With active TV technology one wears independently powered 3D glasses. 3D images can be viewed from any angle which send out full frames on each eye sequentially, providing original picture quality at the full 100% resolution. It’s a no-brainer which TV technology is the more expensive one.

It’s difficult to say when would be a good time to upgrade one’s TV set given the circumstances. Like personal computers, televisions are becoming as quickly replaced by new technologies. The only advice I can give is start saving now.

THE difference between analog TV and digital TV has its roots in the way the TV signal is transmitted or transferred from the source to the TV, which, in turn, dictates the type of TV the consumer needs to use to receive the signal. This also applies to the way a DTV converter box has to transfer a signal to an analog TV, which is important for those consumers who use DTV converters to receive TV programming on an analog TV set. –

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