Digital TV Services
There are three options for receiving digital television in the UK - satellite, cable and terrestrial. This page introduces you to the different formats available.


Once you have decided to get a digital system, you must decide how you will go about it. Below is some information about the digital TV services on offer in the UK.


This system is the easiest way into the world of digital TV. Digital signals are transmitted using modified ground-based transmitters and can be received using an FM antenna - the same roof-mounted one you use for existing television reception. The signal is decoded for viewing by a digital decoder. This can be a separate set-top box about the same size as an average satellite or cable receiver, or can be built-in to a television set with no additional hardware needed. This is the beauty of this system - it's easy! Simply plug your existing antenna cable into the digital decoder (or television if you have one with a decoder included) and connect the decoder to your television with a SCART lead.

Digital terrestrial services are provided by ONdigital - a consortium backed by Carlton and Granada. With the decoder you have access 8 channels free of charge. These include all the current independent and BBC channels, plus a few exclusive digital-only channels. Many extra channels can be added on a subscription basis from a varied, but limited, selection from the SKY satellite service and existing terrestrial providers.



The new hardware needed for digital satellite transmissions is similar to the equipment used for analogue satellite. The analogue receiver is replaced with a digital decoder and the dish is replaced by a smaller model with a digital pickup. The digital system can use the same cable as the one used in existing systems between the dish and the receiver, making installation quicker and easier for existing satellite users.

Digital satellite services are provided by SKY Digital, operated by British Sky Broadcasting. As with terrestrial digital television, you have free access to a number of digital channels simply by installing the equipment. Further channels can be added on a subscription basis, and for choice the SKY service is the best of the bunch with a total of over 200 channels. Included in the listings are 44 digital audio channels, nearly 80 pay-per-view movie channels with a huge number of movies starting at 15 minute intervals, 12 normal movie channels and a dedicated channel for widescreen movies. There are currently about 100 different combinations of channels for subscription customers making it easy to find a package that suits your needs. You can also receive the latest digital radio stations including all the BBC services, Virgin Radio, Classic FM and Capital.

All digital satellite receivers come with an internal modem for using the interactive services and must be connected to a phone line



Digital cable television was the last service to launch. Existing customers will simply have their receiver replaced with a new digital unit, and will benefit from a large number of free and subscription channels. The choice is similar if not greater than existing cable services, with most of the channels being sourced directly from the SKY satellite service. The receiver itself has a modem ready for the future interactive services. And remember, if you have a cable telephone line and your receiver is connected, Internet access has the potential to be significantly faster that the normal phone system. Cable Internet connections are the future of digital communications, and the quality and speed of interactive services with digital cable could be amazing.



At the moment, the most common way to receive digital television is to buy a separate digital receiver that plugs into your existing television. Both ONdigital and SKY Digital have receivers for digital reception. Separate receivers are ideal if you have an existing television that you don't want to change. The alternative, if you ARE thinking of buying a new TV, is to get a set with a terrestrial digital receiver built-in. This allows you to get all the existing free analogue channels (BBC, ITV, etc.) through your existing aerial. With all the digital services, you pay an additional monthly subscription for extra channels as required. Cable Television customers can upgrade their existing receiver to a new digital model. The digital signal on cable uses the same network as analogue services, so no additional installation should be necessary.

Existing SKY satellite subscribers can upgrade to digital for very little expense by replacing the analogue receiver. Cable subscribers are being offered a digital receiver to replace their analogue model.