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Basic Information about UK Digital TV

Discussion in 'Satellite TV, Sky TV & FreeSat' started by BadCamper, Mar 4, 2003.

  1. BadCamper

    BadCamper
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    Hi there everybody,

    Even with tremendous leaps and bounds being made in the telecommunications industry, news generally doesn't fare very well as it travels across the pond over to here in the U.S.

    There seems to be a general lack of knowledge, over here, as far as how Digital Television is progressing in the UK and other parts of the world. I'm quite curious about a few facts, probably considered quite basic knowledge, but relatively unknown over here. Such as...

    How long has the transition been going on?

    Who is in charge of regulations and standards concerning DTV?

    What kind of standards/regulations are currently in place?

    Who all is involved? i.e. local/national broadcast companies, cable & satellite providers? hardware manufacturers?

    Does the general public even have an interest in the switch-over?

    Are there incentives such as cheap equipment to help the transition?


    I ask these questions simply out of curiousity, mucking around with A/V equipment has been a hobby of mine for years...and I'd like to see if any other places in the world have had such a devil of a time making the switch to DTV as we have...especially with all the unintentional loopholes the FCC has left in their legislation.

    Anyhow, it'd be great to discuss such things with anybody who gives a flip! I'd also be willing to answer whatever kinds of questions ya'll might have about things over here.

    Thanks, BC
     
  2. Johndm

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  3. Fernsehman

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    Interesting sentence. I guess the English translation would be "Who
    exactly is involved?" We certainly wouldn't say "who all". ;)

    I can't answer your precise questions and I think everyone here would
    be bored if I did. But, briefly:

    Our sole UK English Language satellite TV provider is BskyB,
    providing our UK "Sky" TV service. The transition from analogue to
    digital satellite transmissions took place in 1998 and analogue was
    switched off within 12 months as Sky took a big gamble and offered a
    "free" digital box to subscribers with a tiny installation fee and
    equally tiny dish. Huge subscription fees fund it plus contributions
    from a consortium called "British Interactive Broadcasting", for
    whose services a phone line and internal modem is required. It's
    possible to watch a few programmes for free. Our main terrestrial TV
    stations are also broadcast via the Sky system.

    Our terrestrial TV is still available via local analogue
    transmissions but also in digital format, with a greater choice of
    programmes. Since terrestrial digital Pay TV died last year (company
    went bust), all terrestrial digital transmissions are now "free" and
    presumably funded by the BBC licence fee. Since the pay TV died, the
    take-up rate for digital terrestrial has topped 100,000 per month.
    This is aided by the fall in set-top box prices to around the $160
    mark (£99).

    Analogue terrestrial is supposed to be switched off within the next
    few years.

    The broadcasting standards are pretty tight and the technology works
    extremely well, let down only by the broadcasters' desire to squeeze
    in as much as possible, which results in digital artifacts on
    lower-funded programmes especially.

    The common standard is 625 line 4:3 format PAL. Wide screen is
    catching on but the number of broadcasts in WS is minimal at present.
    High Definition TV is extremely unlikely to catch on as the bandwidth
    penalty is severe and the demand is minimal. We didn't suffer from
    525 line NTSC and the only real problem with our 625 line PAL is
    screen flicker (50Hz) which most people don't notice anyway and 100Hz
    TV sets are available for those who want them.

    That's my understanding in a nutshell. I'm sure others can correct my
    mistakes and add to this information.

    (Darn, it lost the line feeds when I edited a typo so I've set it to 70 cpi).
     
  4. Chris Muriel

    Chris Muriel
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    I would add www.dvb.org to this.

    The UK was the 1st European country to introduce digital terrestrial TV ; because this was before the demodulator IC manufacturers had completed their designs , the UK went with a 2048 carrier COFDM implementation versus the full 8192 carrier one. All current set-top boxes & IDTVs are capable of demodulating both (& so could be used elsewhere in Europe).
    However, the EU has no real HDTV plans - other than some marketing "hot-air" from http://www.euro1080.tv/ ; I hope this is a success but I am sceptical.
    In the UK we have had the original OnDigital/ITVdigital companies go broke on us ; the new Freeview might just work and has gained quite a few followers - so much so that Ireland is talking about following the same rollout path.
    Money (or the thought of it) drove the original switchover plan - but that was before the "Technology crash" . The fact that all the mobile phone companies overbid for 3G licences means that any future radio spectrum auctions are likely to be very quiet affairs - despite the positive spin that the UK RA (Radio Authority) is trying to put on it. A new regulator (Ofcom) has recently come into being. Ofcom is a single UK body to replace the functions of the RA, ITC, BSC and Radio Authority. See http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about_ofcom/what_ofcom_does/index.htm for the gory details.
    So we in UK may laugh at some of the moves in the USA over ATSC, "must carry" regulations for local TV and claims & counterclaims by Sinclair and others over whether 8VSB/ATSC is the right system for DTTV - but at least I can see real HDTV over there (& have been impressed by quality 1080i and 720p demos.

    Soapbox mode off - but you may detect that I do try & follow what happens on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Chris Muriel , Manchester, England (working for a USA IC company & a frequent visitor to the USA).
     
  5. BadCamper

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    I had intentionally left a "ya'll" buried in there expecting to be barraged with Texas jokes...little did I expect that the southern vernacular has invaded my typing as well as my speech after you had pointed out "who all!" Well you ain't gonna keep me from this here typing, not no way possible!


    And I thank you all for providing responses and further sources for me to learn up on what's going on.
     
  6. jim.rae

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    I agree with most of what has been said except for the view that the amount of WS programming is "minimal"...

    There is a great deal of WS programming on BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5, as well as Sky Sports Coverage.

    And the rest of Sky's own output will be WS later this year.

    The shops are packed to the roof with 16:9 TVs which are now selling well.

    The take up of digital in the UK has been good with Sky alone having digiboxes in over 6 million homes.

    The attraction of almost 200 channels is part of the reason, though it has to be said some of them are dire and must have audiences in barely double figures at times - if that!

    And Freeview - which emerged from the ashes of ITV digital is doing well with at least a million boxes - and still selling.

    But then the Brits like their TV and seem willing to pay for it...

    The no HDTV issue is a pity, but is partly because the pictures in the UK - both analogue and digital - are pretty good already on 625 lines.

    The performance of the new digital systems can be excellent, but we do have a problem with some broadcasters not using enough bandwidth which causes problems at times.

    But I'm sure that will sorted when more bandwidth becomes available.

    You'll find plenty of info on the BBC digital web site.
     
  7. Kearney

    Kearney
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    I disagree, I want HDTV as a lot of current digital transmissions are lousy compared to analogue quality. The only disadvantage a good analogue signal has is that it is composite and not RGB.

    I will be sad to see analogue switched off because the text is much faster!
     
  8. jim.rae

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    I think you missed the point a bit..

    I was lamenting the lack of HDTV progress here in the UK too.

    But there is less reason to make the jump here because the leap of quality between 525 lines NTSC and HDTV is much easier to demonstrate than 625 lines PAL, especially on domestic TVs.

    Where HDTV comes into its own is in big screen presentations where 525 lines - and even 625 - is not enough for a crisp image.

    Digital TV transmissions are not inherently lousy as you suggest, they are excellent when the proper bandwidth is used.

    The new digital text services are also now fast and getting faster as new boxes come out.

    We need better bandwidth use and processing and it will come eventually - -just like the quality we get on DVD.

    And even that will improve in time...
     
  9. Elgaran

    Elgaran
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    I feel that the picture quality is not going to increase any time soon. If new improvements come along in technology (compresion algorithims etc.) I think these will be used to squeeze more channels into the same total bandwidth.

    Yes the picture of digital is great when a decent amount of bandwidth is allocated to a programme but I feel that as time passes any given programme will get less bandwidth than at present.

    This will provide us with more "choice" - yet more shopping channels:(
     
  10. StooMonster

    StooMonster
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    Was channel surfing the other night, and counted 36 "shopping" channels. Eeck. Although they do seem to come and go, they must be making money otherwise wouldn't do it, right?

    StooMonster
     
  11. ditton15

    ditton15
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    Is there anything sensible to be added about digital tv delivered by cable, both TeleWest & NTL? I'm a TeleWest subscriber, and really appreciated the increase in picture quality, initially from cable over over air broadcast, and then digital over analogue.

    ditton
     
  12. Kera

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    One thing that doesn't seem to be mentioned here is coverage. I would like digital TV and live only about 25 miles from the centre of London near Chelmsford.

    I checked my postcode and the website told me that I could pick up just a few of the channels. I went to buy a receiver and was asked for my postcode and then told they wouldn't sell me one as I couldn't receive it according to the source they were required to call every time they sell a set.

    I said that surely this was my problem and was told that there was some warranty issue.

    I continued discussing the issue and the sales person told me he had only been able to sell 4 free to view set top boxes due to this coverage issue !! :mad:

    The only other option as I don't have a cable passing my house is to pay for satelite which is quite expensive and I would get many channels that I don't want.:(
     
  13. lynx

    lynx
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    How about, how long will it take the cable providers to combat digital cable hackers ?
     
  14. jim.rae

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    You are in the same position it would seem as people have been since the start of radio and TV.

    Those with the right gear within reception range get a service, those who don't, don't!

    T'was ever thus...

    It will arrive eventually.

    You pays your money or you get not a lot.
     
  15. Starburst

    Starburst
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    SKY's non subscription deal is quite reasonable, £120 fitted which includes the PACE minibox and dish (Phone connection required). Granted there are a few channels on Freeview/DTT that are not free on SKY but there are also many free channels on satellite that wll not be on DTT for many years if ever.


    SKY FTA/FTV
     

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