Digital TV Guides

How do I get digital TV?

How do I get digital TV?

Updated: Tuesday 23 February, 2010

By Becca Talbot -

Everyone will need to get some form of digital TV service when the switchover is complete in 2012, but which service should you choose to get digital TV?

When it comes to choosing a digital TV service, you need to keep your needs in mind. If you donít watch much television, or just want the basic analogue channels, then youíre probably best going for a digital terrestrial TV (DTT) service like Freeview or Freesat. These are subscription-free services, so you wonít have to sign-up to a contract.

However, if you do want the extra channels available with a subscription TV package, you can choose from either cable TV, satellite TV or a broadband TV package that combines your broadband and TV service to save on the overall monthly cost.

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Video: Quick guide to getting digital TV

Digital terrestrial television (DTT)

DTT is the cheapest way to get digital TV, and is broadcast in a similar way to the current analogue signal. The digital TVsignal will be received by your television aerial, but you will need a set-top box or integrated TVto decode the signal to watch your favourite programmes.

There is no monthly fee; you just pay for the box or the integrated TV and get access to the Freeview ( channels. There is currently 40+ channels available, including the traditional analogue channels, BBC1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Cable TV

Cable TV services are delivered to customers via fibre-optic cables and are decoded using a set-top box which is provided as part of your subscription package. Cable television is supplied by Virgin Media ( and is a good option for people looking to save money on their bills by bundling their phone and broadband services together.

Also, getting your broadband through a cable connection means you donít need a phone line, so if your home phone is only used for the internet, you could make further savings by getting rid of it.

The cost of your package will vary depending on how many, and which channels you want. You will also have to live in a Virgin Media cable area to receive the services - Virgin is currently available to just over 50% of the UK.

Satellite TV

Satellite TV is available from Sky ( and Freesat. Again, you will need a set-top box or TV with a built-in decoder to view a digital satellite TV signal. You will also need to get a satellite dish installed outside your house to receive the signal.

These pieces of hardware will be provided as part of your subscription package with Sky or as a one-off payment if youíre getting Freesat. Freesat is similar to Freeview but offers a lot more channels.

Skyís digital satellite signal can be received by 98% of the country, but in some cases installation may not be possible. This could be because the line of site to the satellite is hidden, because you live in a high-rise block where installation is too difficult, or because you live in a conservation area or a listed building where installation is prohibited.

Again, a huge number of channels and services are available, and costs vary depending on the package you go for. And as with cable, you can save by bundling your digital TV service with other services you already use, such as your phone and broadband.

Internet TV (IPTV)

Internet TV (or IPTV as it is also known) allows customers to watch television over their internet connection, by delivering digital TV signals down their phone lines.

BTís BT Vision ( digital TV service uses BT Total Broadband connections to feed digital TV to peopleís homes. As well as offering the channels available on Freeview, it also gives customers access to on-demand programmes across a range of genres, including kids, sports, and films.

Do I need a new television licence?

No, a normal TV licence is all thatís needed to watch digital TV. You donít need to make any changes or inform TV Licensing that youíve switched.

Help scheme

While there are no plans to subsidise set-top boxes for those who canít afford them, the BBC is funding a help scheme for elderly and disabled people.

Everyone over 75 is eligible, as well as those with a significant disability. The scheme will provide equipment to convert one television set, help with installation and will provide follow-up support.

This help will be free for the poorest eligible households, for example, those on Income Support, Job Seekerís Allowance or Pension Credit. But there will be a fee of £40 for other households.

Consumers eligible for help will be sent more information before their area goes digital.

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