Learn About DTV
Frequently Asked Questions
NOTE: Now that the DTV Transition is completed and all stations have changed to their final DTV channels, be sure to scan for channel changes as convenient.
Please note that the June 12, 2009 DTV transition deadline did not apply to low-power television (LPTV) stations. The FCC will determine a deadline for these stations to transition to digital at a future date. Learn more about LPTV.
The Digital Transition
- What Is the Public Benefit of the DTV Transition?
- What Is the Difference Between Analog and DTV Broadcasting?
- What Are the Laws Regarding DTV?
- When Did Stations Go Digital?
- What Do I Need for DTV Picture Reception Over-The-Air?
The now-completed transition to DTV has provided a host of important public benefits:
- It has freed up parts of the broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (police/fire/rescue).
- It has allowed some of the spectrum to be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).
- It has allowed stations to offer improved picture and surround sound (enhanced audio).
- It has expanded programming choices for viewers. For example, a broadcaster can now offer multiple digital programs simultaneously (multicasting).
- It has provided interactive video and data services that were not possible with analog technology.
DTV is an advanced broadcasting technology that replaces analog over-the-air broadcasting. Digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality along with a host of other advantages over analog broadcasting.
For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super sharp High Definition (HD) digital program or multiple Standard Definition (SD) digital programs simultaneously. Digital television offers many advantages over analog television for viewing broadcast TV.
A broadcaster also can use its DTV signal to provide video and data services that were not possible with analog technology. Full-power television stations serving every market in the U.S. are delivering DTV programming.
In 1996, Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast TV station so that they could use it for digital broadcasting while simultaneously continuing their analog broadcast channel.
Later, Congress mandated June 12, 2009 (extended from February 17, 2009) as the last day for full-power television stations in the U.S. to broadcast in analog. Before June 12, 2009, broadcast stations in all U.S. markets were transmitting in both analog and digital. Since June 13, 2009, all full-power U.S. TV stations have been transmitting in digital only.
All full-power television stations converted to digital by June 12, 2009 . If you watch over-the-air television today, you should be able to receive all or most of your local stations’ digital signals if you have a DTV receiver. You may view high definition and multicast programming from your local stations. Check your local program listings or contact your local TV stations to find out more about the digital television available now.
You need one of the following:
- A TV set with a digital tuner.
- An analog TV set connected to a digital-to-analog converter box.
In either case, you will need an appropriate antenna connected to the TV set or the converter box; either an outdoor rooftop antenna or an indoor antenna (such as “rabbit ears” for VHF reception and a loop or bowtie for UHF reception).
If you have a digital TV set, you will not need any additional equipment (with the exception of an antenna) to receive over-the-air digital broadcast programming. However if you have an analog TV set, a digital converter box must be connected between the antenna and the analog TV to receive and display over-the-air digital programming.
Make sure that you have all of the DTV equipment you need. DTV equipment can be purchased as an integrated set or as separate components. "Integrated" digital TV sets have both a built-in digital tuner and a digital monitor to display the programming.
You will also need an antenna that provides good reception of signals on both VHF and UHF channels. The performance capabilities of TV antennas varies significantly, so make sure to talk to retail consultants and look at information on the packaging and/or the Internet to make sure that any new antenna you may choose provides good reception of both VHF and UHF channels. In addition, if you use an indoor antenna and receive signals on VHF channels, you may need to use an antenna with amplification.
If you buy a digital monitor only (without an integrated digital tuner), you will need a stand-alone digital tuner, a cable set-top box, a fiber service set-top box or a satellite set-top box to watch DTV.
Digital Cable Ready (DCR) or "plug-and-play" TV sets are also available. These can be used to receive digital cable TV (and often HD over cable) without a separate set-top box. A CableCARD is needed to watch certain cable programming. These sets do not work directly with satellite -- you still need a set-top box to view satellite programming.
Ask your retailer what connectors you need to make sure your new DTV set works with your other electronic equipment (DVD player, DVR, camcorder, VCR, computer, video games, and other equipment). The electronic equipment you have now should work with your new DTV, but you may need new connectors. Make a list of what you have now and ask your retailer what you need to connect the components.
Now that the DTV Transition is completed, analog TV sets need additional equipment -– a digital-to-analog converter box –- to receive over-the-air television. Analog sets equipped with a converter box will display the digital broadcasts, but not in full digital quality.
To check for the DTV signals that are available at your location, use the DTV Reception Maps available at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/.
For more information on antennas, see the Antenna Guide at www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/dtvantennas.html.