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Digital TV has been with us for a few years now and before 2012 is out we will all be digital users. This is because as the governments Digital Switchover continues each and every area of the UK will see its traditional analogue TV service being unceremoniously switched off. Quite simply, come 2013, if you want to watch TV you will have to make the switch to digital.
For many, life without analogue TV is already a reality. The digital switchover has already been completed in Scotland, Wales, the southwest, northwest and the Borders.
UK consumers have a number of options to consider when preparing for the switch. Many people will already be watching digital TV without realising it. Chances are if you’ve bought a TV in the last five years it will be a so-called DVB TV i.e. one that receives the free-to-air digital TV channels, or ‘Freeview’.
But there is so much to be gained by opting instead for a subscription digital TV service from Sky, Virgin Media or BT Vision.
Sky brought digital TV to the UK in the late days of the 1990s. Since then they have established themselves as a powerful force in digital TV broadcasting. Sky was also the first digital TV provider to operate a solely subscription based service.
Today Sky offers a fantastic range of channels, which, at 330 and rising, is more than three times as many as their nearest rivals. Sky also trounces the opposition in terms of HD content. With a Sky HD subscription viewers have access to more than 50 high definition TV channels.
These channels are, of course, delivered into homes via satellite, the signal being received by a satellite dish that will be installed by Sky’s own engineers when you subscribe.
Subscribers are also issued with a Sky+ HD set-top box. This fantastic gadget allows you to pause and rewind live TV shows so you never miss a minute of action if you want to run a put the kettle on.
It also lets and lets you record up to two programmes at the same time. This is ideal if you have any favourite programmes clashing with each other. Entire series can also be scheduled to record at the touch of a button guaranteeing you’ll never miss a crucial episode of that favourite drama ever again.
Programmes are recorded onto an internal hard drive. The current top of the line Sky+ box features an internal 1TB drive that allows you to record and store hundreds of hours of programming. And, unlike recordable DVDs and old video cassettes there is no loss in picture quality caused by handling or repeated viewing.
With Sky digital TV you can also add options for broadband Internet access and inclusive telephone calls.
- Greatest number of channels at 300+
- Sky+ set-top box records up to two shows at a time onto an internal hard disc up to 1TB in capacity
- Up to 66 HD channels - More than any other provider
- Inclusive broadband and calls options
- Requires a satellite dish to be installed on the side of your property
- Box must be connected to a land line to qualify for free installation
The digital TV service from Virgin Media is transmitted via underground cables, not through the air as with Sky.
While this is ideal in some respects it also means that you can only receive Virgin Media TV if you live in an area that is connected to the Virgin Media cable network. Currently Virgin Media claims to be able to service some 55% of UK homes with TV, broadband and phone services.
With a Virgin Media digital TV subscription you can get up to 160 great channels including options that include, for a small additional cost, channels such as Sky 1, Comedy Central, Disney, ESPN & Sky Sports.
Virgin Media TV viewers can also enjoy HD content piped straight into their homes. There is also a small amount of on-demand 3D content available on a pay-per-view basis.
- Up to 225 channels depending upon subscription
- No need for a satellite dish or TV aerial
- Excellent on-demand service
- Fast broadband options up to 100Mb
- Inclusive calls options
- Almost half of UK homes are not covered
- All Virgin Media packages and bundles are offered on 18 month contracts
The digital TV service from BT Vision is based around the core Freeview channels so you will still need a traditional TV aerial to receive TV channels on BT Vision.
Other channels are added by means of Viewing Packs, each of which is themed, such as the Kids Pack, Sports Pack and film Club.
Yet more channels can be added from just a few pounds per month including Sky Sports and ESPN.
- Can be combined with up to 40Mb broadband
- Good range of on-demand content
- BT covers most of the UK
- Good inclusive calls options available
- Requires a working TV aerial to receive channels
- Some packages are only offered on 24 month contracts