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UK ONdigital Terrestrial FAQ

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"On Digital"..The new digital set-top box..No dish required!

THE NEW DIGITAL SYSTEMS...THE PROs AND CONsondigital card by Mike Hancox

From now on there are two types of Television/Satellite Systems available to replace your old Analogue Satellite System that is now obsolete. You will need to chose a new Digital System to replace the old Analogue one.

Basically, the systems comprise the new "Sky Digital" (which is similar to your old one, but features better picture quality and CD quality sound) and the "On Digital" system that also features the better picture quality and sound, but has the advantage of NOT requiring any sort of Dish on your property. The signals being received through a normal TV Aerial ...They both equate to around the same retail price.


This system offers a smaller than usual dish and a top quality picture and sound system, with access to the usual Sky channels plus some new "Pay As You View" channels at around £2.99 per film extra to the normal payments. Extra pay items are accessed via the remote control and your telephone line at any time. They are automatically deducted from your Bank account by Sky Television..So be careful what you allow the babysitter, visitors and your children to watch, when you are not around...and double check your bank statement !!! The normal BBC channels are available but beware...NO ITV1 or ITV2 and no German channels. Also, the unit needs to have a telephone socket installed near to the TV at extra cost in most cases, as Sky intend to make frequent telephone calls to their offices in order to supply films and collect your viewing data etc..YOU MIGHT PAY FOR THESE CALLS. So beware of this "Big Brother" part of the deal and watch your telephone bill !! The system will not work properly unless left switched on and plugged into the mains and the telephone line on a permanent basis..Another point is a factor called "Wipeout"..The screen can go totally blank during heavy rainstorms etc....Too bad if you've just paid £2.99. extra to watch that special film ! You will not get a weaker, sparkly picture...Just a blank screen..So you will probably end upgrading your dish size and the LNB, at extra cost.


The "On Digital" terrestrial system consists of a "Set Top Box" similar in size to a Satellite Receiver, that does NOT require a Satellite Dish of any sort. The signals are received by a normal Television Aerial and the pictures and CD sound quality are identical to the Sky Digital System, subject to a recent or new television aerial being available on the house..(however, we do suggest that a new digital compatible TV aerial be purchased as part of the installation, as most TV aerials have been up for many years and are wired with poor quality or cheap cable that will have deteriorated over the years. Opening "Free Channels" include ITV 1. ITV 2. (both NOT available on Sky Digital), BBC1. BBC NEWS 24. BBC CHOICE. CHANNEL 4. CHANNEL 5. and DIGITAL TELETEXT.

Opening "Premium Channels" include SKY SPORTS ONE.(with Sky Sports 3 FREE). MANCHESTER UNITED TV. SKY PREMIER. SKY MOVIE MAX. FILM FOUR.. and more.


From day one, YOU get to choose just which channels you actually need to view.....No more paying out for bundles of channels that you HAD to subscribe to, just to get the odd one that you actually wanted to watch.

So, to SUM UP: NO DISH. NO PHONE LINES. NO PHONE CALLS. NO £2.99 FILMS. NO WASTED CHANNELS.....and complete portability to the Bedroom when you're poorly......All at about the same installation price as Sky Digital.....Of course you'll lose those foreign channels that you loved to hate !!!!! Sorry about that !!!

How Digital Terrestrial Television Works

Digital terrestrial Television (DTT) is an all-digital system from ONdigital to the home, unlike current PAL transmissions, which are analogue. For the first time, studio quality pictures can be viewed in the home.

ONdigital's channels arrive at the multiplex centre in London from the play out centres by digital fibre. At the multiplex centre the pictures are compressed and combined with the sound, subtitling and data services into groups of programme services, which can be transmitted more efficiently to the home than with analogue systems. The Electronic Programme Guide (ERG) is added and the digital signals are encrypted (or scrambled).

The groups of services are then distributed by fibre to 81 transmission sites around the UK from which they are transmitted to the home on Ultra High Frequency (UHF) channels along side the existing analogue PAL transmissions. This means that TV aerials can be used to receive DTT. Thanks to a new form of transmission system called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (OFDM), which is much more robust than PAL, interference free reception is possible - no more ghosting or noise.

The set-top box tunes to the digital channels, de-encrypts the signals (if a valid smart card is inserted), "uncompresses" the pictures and provides a standard output to the existing TV set. When they become available, integrated digital TV's will plug straight into the existing aerial socket.

What is Digital Compression?

Digital compression is a process where only movement or detail in a digitised picture is selected for onward transmission. A picture frame, when digitised, will be made up of 6.72 megabits and as there are 25 frames per second this translates to 168 megabits per second. After compression the same picture frame may only be made up of between 4 to 5 megabits per second, depending on the content. This enables more than one programme service to be transmitted in one UHF channel.

ONdigital plans to launch with five services in each UHF channel and to add more as improvements in technology allow. The set-top-boxes will automatically adapt to improvements in digital compression when they occur. Thus when new services are made available to viewers, they will not need to change their set-top-boxes."

What will I need to watch the free to air channels?

It does not cost anything to watch free to air, as it says, it s still free. You will need however a set top box or integrated TV to receive the digital signals.

Will ITV and ITV2 be on digital satellite?


Will home shopping be a possibility?

In due course

What is Aerial Digital TV?

This is a partnership involving all the major broadcasters in digital aerial television the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C, SDN, ONdigital and Teletext.

Its aim is to offer clear, simple information to viewers and retailers alike and to bring digital aerial television to the UK in a coherent manner, providing the best services to its customers.
ONdigital - The BENEFITS

ONdigital is EASY

To receive digital terrestrial television and ONdigital's services, viewers will need a simple set-top box that plugs into their existing aerial socket and TV. No dish, no cable.

ONdigital gives you more CHOICE

The box will give viewers access to at least 30 channels - ONdigital's fifteen channels, the five existing free-to-air channels, new channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, and enhanced Teletext.

ONdigital is SIMPLE

To receive ONdigital's channels, viewers will just insert a smart card into the box, ring ONdigital and start subscribing.

ONdigital receives NEW CHANNELS

The set-top box will be able to receive new free channels from the BBC (like News 24) and ITV (like ITV2). All viewers need do is simply plug the set-top box into their television and existing aerial socket.

ONdigital means NEW FEATURES

An electronic programme guide (EPG) will show viewers what programmes are on now and next, without interrupting their viewing.

The box will also receive new digital services from Ceefax and Teletext, with improved pictures and graphics, faster speed of access and more extensive listing information to supplement the on-screen guide.

ONdigital provides BETTER PICTURES

There will be no ghosting or snow if you can receive DTT. Viewers with new wide screen TVs will be able to take advantage of the higher proportion of wide screen material included in DTT broadcasts.

ONdigital is WIDE SCREEN

More programmes will be broadcast in wide screen format (16:9). Viewers with a normal 4:3 television will be able to choose whether they want to watch programmes in wide screen format.


Will I be able to receive ONdigital or which parts of the country will be able to receive it?

Find out by checking against postcode - enquiry system has been established to identify this.

Will Teletext be available on DTT?

Yes - and it will be a more user friendly digital information service.

When will I be able to get ONdigital?

This will depend on where you live

How can I receive DTT?

To receive ONdigital, viewers will need a set top box, which simply plugs into an existing aerial socket - no dish, no cable.
The set top box performs two functions, firstly it converts digital signals into analogue, allowing programmes to be viewed on existing television sets; secondly the box allows the viewer to receive all the 'free to air' services and subscription channels. Additionally, the digital technology will be built into some new televisions, alleviating the need for set top boxes.

What set top box is available now?Mediamaster 9850T ondigital

Nokia Mediamaster 9850 T - for digital terrestrial services Ready for Pay per View services. Ready for interactive services. Ready for 2k OFDM reception. Common Interface connector.
Built-in telephone modem. Software updating via transport stream (over air) or RS232 interface and PC/Internet. Compliant with ONdigital's specification.


Will I need a new TV when digital TV launches?

NO, all the current channels i.e. ITV, BBC, will continue to be broadcast as they are at the moment. And, your normal TV will also receive digital signals, if you buy a set-top box.

In the long -term, it is expected that all broadcasting will be in digital. When this happens, however, hasn't been decided and it certainly won't happen without lots of warning. The government has said it won't happen until digital TV can be viewed by the vast majority of people.

By the time it happens most people will have bought a digital TV anyway.

How much will an STB cost?

A set top box will cost in the region of 200 if the consumer also subscribes to ONdigital

Do I need one box per television?

Yes, although you can move the box around your home.

Do I need separate subscription if I buy a second box?


Will I need a new video


Will my video still work with a digital TV?

Yes, with the same limitation as with the current Sky or cable systems - you can't watch one digital channel and record another digital channel at the same time (you need two set top boxes to do that).

When will analogue be switched off?

Both this government and the last have indicated their intention to switch off the analogue signal - it is essentially a matter for them.
ONdigital is a joint venture established by Carlton Communications and the Granada Group to bring together their own award winning programming, as well as the very best from UK TV and British Sky Broadcasting.

The best of British...

ONdigital will offer a range of subscription channels. The channels cover a wide variety of mainly British programming. For instance, you'll find award winning drama and comedy on Granada Plus, the best science, nature and history programmes on UK Horizons and high quality films and television movies on Carlton Films.

...and more besides

ONdigital is also offering Sky Premiere and Sky Moviemax and Sky Sports, to complement their own programming. On top of this, subscribers can watch all the free digital channels including ITV2 exclusively, as well as text services from Teletext.

To receive this exciting package all you have to do is subscribe to ONdigital when you buy or rent your integrated digital television or digital set top box.

Here's a taste of what's ahead...

Continue to watch the diverse quality programmes you know and Love from BBC ONE and BBC TWO - with all the benefits of digital technology and wide screen broadcasting.

Launching in the Autumn BBC CHOICE will build ingeniously on the strength and range of BBC ONE and BBC TWO to offer a totally new kind of TV channel. It is the BBCs first general channel to extend such diversity and depth of programming since BBC TWO began in 1964. Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland wilt also have their own versions of BBC CHOICE.

BBC NEWS 24 brings together the vast Local national and international news gathering resources of the BBC to give you news on demand. You'll find Live and uninterrupted coverage of important events as they happen at home and abroad - 24 hours a day.

National appeal...

SDN brings together the diverse expertise of 3 UK media players. After S4C originally submitted an application for a digital television licence they were later supported by United News and Media and NTL in developing the project to extend programme choice for the digital viewer throughout the UK.

A mix of both public service and commercial broadcasting SDN will be able to carry at least six services from its Launch, including the digital version of Channel 5.

These digital services are expected to reach 90% of UK homes by 1999 giving Channel 5 greater coverage than its present analogue service allows. The nature and content of specific channels and their programming are to be announced shortly, once details have been finalised.

Channel 4 will be broadcasting its existing service with wide screen and CD sound quality on digital television delivered through an aerial. New pay-TV options will also be available, including a film service built upon the channel's reputation as a major film producer. There's a lot to look forward to on Channel 4.

ITV's new channel

ITV is launching ITV2, a new free channel available exclusively on digital television delivered through an aerial. It is the first new ITV channel for 43 years and includes programmes and series made with the same style and quality you enjoy currently from ITV, Britain's most popular channel.

...other exciting developments include...card

Interactive television is new to the Digital Age and will bring exciting opportunities for you the viewer to get even more enjoyment from BBC programmes by extending the way you use your televisions. The BBC is currently developing a range of services, including Digital Text* and Enhanced TV* to ensure that BBC interactive television will be ready to deliver as soon as the technology permits.

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