Get ready for the big change over e over from analogue to digital

TELEVISION services in Ireland are moving from analogue to digital systems in a programme known as Digital Switch Over. Digital Switch Over (DSO) is national and EU policy, so changes similar to those here in Ireland are under way across Europe.

The Irish digital TV service is being rolled out and will be operated by RTÉ. RTÉ's free-to-air digital television service, called SAORVIEW, was launched to 90% of the country on 29 October 2010. This is the first step in a transition process during which Ireland prepares for analogue switch-off.

It is planned that the old analogue transmission system, which has been in use since 1961, will be definitively switched off at the end of 2012.

By that time, RTÉ plans to offer digital TV coverage to 98% of the population with its SAORVIEW service. During the transition period, both digital and analogue services will operate side by side, so you will still be able to get existing terrestrial channels from RTÉ, TV3 and TG4.

If you currently use the analogue signal, you will need to take some action so you can continue to receive Irish channels through the new digital system.

If your household has more than one TV set (e.g. in the kitchen, bedrooms etc), you may need to make changes so that each set can receive the digital signal.

Once analogue broadcasts stop, you will not be able to view Irish terrestrial channels unless your TV or set-top box (STB) is enabled to receive digital signals. However, if you are currently receiving television services through a cable television supplier, a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) relay or a satellite system, the Digital Switch Over is unlikely to affect you, as televisions hooked up to these systems will continue to receive their signal in the same way as at present.

How can I get new digital services?

There are four main ways:

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) Digital cable TV Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS), or

Satellite dish systems and PCs

1. Digital terrestrial television (DTT)

SAORVIEW is RTÉ's digital terrestrial television (DTT) service. It is a freetoair service, which means there are no monthly subscription fees or contracts.

To receive SAORVIEW, you won't need to buy a satellite dish or cable connection, but you will need:

A "traditional" television set which can take a SCART lead or a HDMI cable and a set-top box (STB) or An integrated Digital Television (iDTV) – this is a new TV with the digital receiving equipment built in AND An antenna or aerial, properly installed to ensure that the signal is reliable and consistent

SAORVIEW-approved Set Top Boxes (STBs) and digital TVs will be available to buy, and these will carry the SAORVIEW label (see below). At present, only equipment marked with the SAORVIEW logo is guaranteed by RTÉ to provide 100% compatible reception of the Irish SAORVIEW service.

This service will be the Irish equivalent of "Freeview" in the UK. However, for technical reasons, standard UK specific Freeview boxes and iDTVs (marked with the 'Freeview' or 'Freeview +' logo) will not decode the SAORVIEW service.

Access to UK Freeview channels in Ireland is also not guaranteed. Newer model UK Freeview boxes and iDTVs with the 'FreeviewHD' logo may be able to receive and decode the SAORVIEW signal, but may not provide access to the full range of SAORVIEW services.

If you are buying new equipment to receive digital TV signals, you should research what products are on the market and get

advice from retailers to determine the system that will best suit both your budget and needs.

SAORVIEW is currently broadcasting RTÉ One and RTÉ Two, TG4, TV3, 3e and test channels. A commercial DTT service may also become available in the future.

To connect your STB to your TV you may need a SCART lead, component cable or HDMI cable. If you are currently using a VHF aerial to receive analogue TV, you will need to get a UHF aerial to receive DTT.

2. Digital cable TV

Cable TV as we know it at present was introduced in Ireland in the late 1960s using an analogue system. Over the last number of years, many consumers have moved over to digital cable TV.

As with DTT, digital cable TV requires a receiver box/set-top box connected to the TV to decode digital signals. The box required in this case is usually supplied as part of your contract with your chosen cable TV service provider. If you currently have a cable subscription, nothing should change once the Digital Switch Over takes place.

3. Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service – MMDS

Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service, or MMDS, was introduced in Ireland in the 1980s and is used by approximately 100,000 households.

MMDS sends content over a radio-based transmission network. The signals are received by a rooftop aerial, then processed by a receiver/decoder.

MMDS may be either analogue or digital, and service providers are currently upgrading their analogue networks to digital.

MMDS tends to operate in those urban and suburban areas where cable is not a viable alternative. As with Digital Cable TV, if you are currently an MMDS customer, you should not need to make any changes in order to continue your usual TV viewing.

4. Satellite dish systems and PCs

Digital television services can also be accessed via satellite dish systems, whether on contract with a service provider or through free-to-air satellite systems you buy and install yourself. In each case, a receiver/set-top box will also be required, but this is normally supplied with the package.

If you have an existing free-to-air satellite system you will be aware that you cannot access Irish channels as they are encoded.

Accessing digital TV on a PC or laptop may involve some special equipment such as a USB stick with a mini-aerial attached. The equipment decodes the signal for display on the PC screen, but will only work where the signal is good.

Do I need a new TV set?

You won't necessarily need to change your current television set to receive digital TV signals. Most existing TV sets with a connection for a SCART lead or HDMI cable, in good working order, will be able to receive the signal through the aerial and set-top box.

If you do intend changing your television set, special integrated digital TV (iDTV) sets are on the market ahead of the Digital Switch Over in 2012. The SAORVIEW website has a list of products that are currently approved and more will become available over the next few months.

There are also iDTVs on the market that are SAORVIEW compatible i.e. they will receive the Irish service. However, at present only SAORVIEW approved products are guaranteed to pick up the service, so make sure you know what you are buying.

As with any purchase, you should research the market and shop around for the best deal you can get. Given the wide number of options available, be careful to ensure that any TV purchased meets your specific circumstances.

Bear in mind that if you buy a digital-ready TV set in another country it may not necessarily work on the Irish market without enhancement or extra equipment.

TVs marked "Freeview" or with the UK digital "tick" logo are intended for the UK digital free-to-air service. This is based on a different technology to that being used for Irish DTT, so you won't receive Irish channels, and depending on where in the country you live you may not be able to avail of the UK digital Freeview service either.

If you buy a UK "Freeview" type iDTV you will still need a set-top box to view Ireland's DTT services.

As this is a complex area, if you are considering buying a new TV set, remember to specifically confirm with the retailer what SAORVIEW services will and will not work on the equipment. Also, check the list of SAORVIEW compatible receivers on the SAORVIEW website. TELEVISION services in Ireland are moving from analogue to digital systems in a programme known as Digital Switch Over. Digital Switch Over (DSO) is national and EU policy, so changes similar to those here in Ireland are under way across Europe.

The Irish digital TV service is being rolled out and will be operated by RTÉ. RTÉ's free-to-air digital television service, called SAORVIEW, was launched to 90% of the country on 29 October 2010. This is the first step in a transition process during which Ireland prepares for analogue switch-off.

It is planned that the old analogue transmission system, which has been in use since 1961, will be definitively switched off at the end of 2012.

By that time, RTÉ plans to offer digital TV coverage to 98% of the population with its SAORVIEW service. During the transition period, both digital and analogue services will operate side by side, so you will still be able to get existing terrestrial channels from RTÉ, TV3 and TG4.

If you currently use the analogue signal, you will need to take some action so you can continue to receive Irish channels through the new digital system.

If your household has more than one TV set (e.g. in the kitchen, bedrooms etc), you may need to make changes so that each set can receive the digital signal.

Once analogue broadcasts stop, you will not be able to view Irish terrestrial channels unless your TV or set-top box (STB) is enabled to receive digital signals. However, if you are currently receiving television services through a cable television supplier, a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) relay or a satellite system, the Digital Switch Over is unlikely to affect you, as televisions hooked up to these systems will continue to receive their signal in the same way as at present.

How can I get new digital services?

There are four main ways:

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) Digital cable TV Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS), or

Satellite dish systems and PCs

1. Digital terrestrial television (DTT)

SAORVIEW is RTÉ's digital terrestrial television (DTT) service. It is a freetoair service, which means there are no monthly subscription fees or contracts.

To receive SAORVIEW, you won't need to buy a satellite dish or cable connection, but you will need:

A "traditional" television set which can take a SCART lead or a HDMI cable and a set-top box (STB) or An integrated Digital Television (iDTV) – this is a new TV with the digital receiving equipment built in AND An antenna or aerial, properly installed to ensure that the signal is reliable and consistent

SAORVIEW-approved Set Top Boxes (STBs) and digital TVs will be available to buy, and these will carry the SAORVIEW label (see below). At present, only equipment marked with the SAORVIEW logo is guaranteed by RTÉ to provide 100% compatible reception of the Irish SAORVIEW service.

This service will be the Irish equivalent of "Freeview" in the UK. However, for technical reasons, standard UK specific Freeview boxes and iDTVs (marked with the 'Freeview' or 'Freeview +' logo) will not decode the SAORVIEW service.

Access to UK Freeview channels in Ireland is also not guaranteed. Newer model UK Freeview boxes and iDTVs with the 'FreeviewHD' logo may be able to receive and decode the SAORVIEW signal, but may not provide access to the full range of SAORVIEW services.

If you are buying new equipment to receive digital TV signals, you should research what products are on the market and get

advice from retailers to determine the system that will best suit both your budget and needs.

SAORVIEW is currently broadcasting RTÉ One and RTÉ Two, TG4, TV3, 3e and test channels. A commercial DTT service may also become available in the future.

To connect your STB to your TV you may need a SCART lead, component cable or HDMI cable. If you are currently using a VHF aerial to receive analogue TV, you will need to get a UHF aerial to receive DTT.

2. Digital cable TV

Cable TV as we know it at present was introduced in Ireland in the late 1960s using an analogue system. Over the last number of years, many consumers have moved over to digital cable TV.

As with DTT, digital cable TV requires a receiver box/set-top box connected to the TV to decode digital signals. The box required in this case is usually supplied as part of your contract with your chosen cable TV service provider. If you currently have a cable subscription, nothing should change once the Digital Switch Over takes place.

3. Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service – MMDS

Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service, or MMDS, was introduced in Ireland in the 1980s and is used by approximately 100,000 households.

MMDS sends content over a radio-based transmission network. The signals are received by a rooftop aerial, then processed by a receiver/decoder.

MMDS may be either analogue or digital, and service providers are currently upgrading their analogue networks to digital.

MMDS tends to operate in those urban and suburban areas where cable is not a viable alternative. As with Digital Cable TV, if you are currently an MMDS customer, you should not need to make any changes in order to continue your usual TV viewing.

4. Satellite dish systems and PCs

Digital television services can also be accessed via satellite dish systems, whether on contract with a service provider or through free-to-air satellite systems you buy and install yourself. In each case, a receiver/set-top box will also be required, but this is normally supplied with the package.

If you have an existing free-to-air satellite system you will be aware that you cannot access Irish channels as they are encoded.

Accessing digital TV on a PC or laptop may involve some special equipment such as a USB stick with a mini-aerial attached. The equipment decodes the signal for display on the PC screen, but will only work where the signal is good.

Do I need a new TV set?

You won't necessarily need to change your current television set to receive digital TV signals. Most existing TV sets with a connection for a SCART lead or HDMI cable, in good working order, will be able to receive the signal through the aerial and set-top box.

If you do intend changing your television set, special integrated digital TV (iDTV) sets are on the market ahead of the Digital Switch Over in 2012. The SAORVIEW website has a list of products that are currently approved and more will become available over the next few months.

There are also iDTVs on the market that are SAORVIEW compatible i.e. they will receive the Irish service. However, at present only SAORVIEW approved products are guaranteed to pick up the service, so make sure you know what you are buying.

As with any purchase, you should research the market and shop around for the best deal you can get. Given the wide number of options available, be careful to ensure that any TV purchased meets your specific circumstances.

Bear in mind that if you buy a digital-ready TV set in another country it may not necessarily work on the Irish market without enhancement or extra equipment.

TVs marked "Freeview" or with the UK digital "tick" logo are intended for the UK digital free-to-air service. This is based on a different technology to that being used for Irish DTT, so you won't receive Irish channels, and depending on where in the country you live you may not be able to avail of the UK digital Freeview service either.

If you buy a UK "Freeview" type iDTV you will still need a set-top box to view Ireland's DTT services.

As this is a complex area, if you are considering buying a new TV set, remember to specifically confirm with the retailer what SAORVIEW services will and will not work on the equipment. Also, check the list of SAORVIEW compatible receivers on the SAORVIEW website.

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