Digital switchover

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The way we access TV is changing. By the end of October 2012, everyone in Northern Ireland will be watching TV digitally. You may be aware of this from adverts and via word of mouth, but do you know what the digital switchover means for you?

What is digital switchover?

The traditional analogue signal is being switched off and replaced with a new, stronger digital signal. This is known as the digital switchover.

Anyone who wants to carry on watching TV needs to prepare in advance to make sure their sets are compatible with the new system. In other words, you should start checking now that every TV in your house can receive a digital signal.

Your TV may already be digital – and if so, all you will have to do is retune it when your region switches over.

However, if your TV isn’t digital and hasn’t been converted, it will stop working when your region goes digital. But don’t worry – almost all TVs can be converted, even black and white ones.

If you think you might have difficulty switching to digital TV, find out if you’re eligible for assistance from the opens link in new window Switchover Help Scheme.

If you are over 75, receive a disability benefit, live in a care home or are registered as blind or partially sighted, the scheme will contact you to ask if you want help. You don’t need to do anything.

There are also videos available on the opens link in new window Digital UK website to help you to convert to digital.

When do I switch?

All TV transmitters in Northern Ireland will switch to digital TV in two stages on 10 October and 24 October 2012. The switch will happen in two stages to give people the chance to check their equipment.

What are my options?

Although you have to switch, you have a choice of how to receive the digital signal:

  • Your existing aerial
  • Through a satellite dish
  • Via cable
  • Down your telephone line

If you want to use your existing aerial, you must either convert your TV by buying a digital set-top box for around £25, or buy an integrated digital television. You can then get digital terrestrial channels and Freeview services for free.

You can also convert to digital using a satellite dish. Most of the main providers offer free-to-air service options with a one-off installation charge.

The third option is to subscribe to cable TV, but this is only possible if cable has been installed in your area. Contact one of the cable companies to ask.

Alternatively, you may choose to receive digital TV through your phone line, by subscription. Again, this option is only available in some regions – contact opens link in new window BT Vision to find out which.

How much will switching over cost?

Whichever option you choose, there will be a cost. However, the amount will vary depending how you receive your digital signal, the number of channels you have access to, and what equipment you need. Think about your requirements and research your options before choosing one.

If you buy any new equipment, check that it displays the opens link in new window digital tick logo which means it works with a digital signal. The research charity
opens link in new window Ricability offers independent advice on equipment options.

What about digital radio?

No decision has yet been made on whether radio will be completely switched to digital. However, if you’re thinking of buying a digital radio, make sure it’s capable of receiving both DAB and DAB+, so that it’ll work if there’s a switchover.

Age NI Advice Line:
0808 808 7575

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