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How do I get Digital TV?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Before explaining how you can get digital TV, it is important to understand what digital television is. Though many associate high definition television with digital TV, standard resolution images can also be sent as digital signals. The difference between digital TV and analog TV is in the broadcast standard used. The switch to digital TV in the United States took place in June of 2009, so if you are in the U.S. and are receiving a signal, then you have digital TV. many other countries have already made the switch, or are in the process of switching.

You can get digital TV on an analog television set, but you must have a digital TV receiver, or a converter box to translate the signals. The U.S. government was offering vouchers so that residents who were still getting their television signals over the air could get digital TV converter boxes at a reduced price. This is the only way to get digital TV without paying extra money for programming.

Those who have cable or satellite service already get digital TV, and therefore do not need to do anything else in order to receive signals. These providers have been sending digital signals for a number of years, but instead of using radio waves, they send the signals through cable and satellite connections. Now, most providers also offer high definition channels, in addition to the standard television.

For those who still have analog TV sets, getting digital TV through a converter box offers only limited improvement in the resolution and sound quality. However, it is the only way to continue receiving on-air TV without purchasing a new television. Just receiving digital TV signal is not enough to reap the full benefits of the new technology. To do that, you must also have a television that is capable of displaying high resolution images.

The televisions capable of doing this are known as high definition televisions. Even if you have digital TV and a high definition set, you still will likely need to pay for high definition service if you are using a cable or satellite provider. Otherwise, you will not be able to take advantage of the higher resolution programing that is available, except for what you can receive over the airwaves. Television programming providers charge additional for these services, because they are considered premium options.

The United States is not the only country where people must deal with the challenges of getting digital TV. While some countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have already made the switch, others are still in the planning stage. For example, Germany and Australia are planning on making the switch from analog signals to digital television by the end of 2013.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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