The Analog to Digital Transition

The Analog to Digital TV Transition was a change from old style analog television broadcasting to new digital broadcasting.

The free television programming transmitted from TV stations across the country is also known as
over-the-air broadcasting.

This transition ONLY affected
over-the-air TV broadcast/reception.

Moving from analog to digital TV was the most significant change in television since the NTSC standard for color TV was introduced in 1953.

In 2005, Congress passed legislation requiring over-the-air TV stations to turn off their analog channels on June 12, 2009.

By law, all full-power U.S. television stations ended their analog broadcasts, and began broadcasting in digital format only
on June 12, 20

Low Power TV Stations were exempt from the transition

What does that mean to you?

Digital Television is an advanced broadcasting technology that gives you movie quality pictures and sound, more channels, and even free high definition television (HDTV), IF you have a HD television set.

Analog is also susceptible to "snow" that makes the picture less clear. That isn't a problem with digital TV. However, the reason for the change from analog to digital goes far beyond that.

Basically, analog is not as efficient as digital TV, it uses up a lot more of the valuable Broadcast Spectrum* than digital transmissions.

* The Broadcast Spectrum is the airwave space that TV Stations are licensed to broadcast on.

TV stations can only transmit one channel of programming at a time with an analog signal versus up to four or more programs with a digital signal in the same amount of spectrum. This is known as multicasting*. Now broadcasters will be able to offer more choices of programming, including high definition (HD).

*Multicasting is a digital television technology that allows transmission of up to four or more programs simultaneously, free and over the air.

Because digital television technology allows much more information to be put into one signal, multiple channels can be transmitted on the same wavelength instead of just one.

TV stations will be able to offer more choices of programming, more local channels and high definition (HD). Each separate program stream is called a multicast.

Cutting out the analog portions of the broadcasting spectrum will free up areas that will be used for two important purposes:

  • It will be given to our nation’s firefighters and police, to better communicate during emergencies.
  • The remaining spectrum will be auctioned off to provide innovative wireless broadband services to consumers.
  • Digital TV technology can also be used for interactive video and data services, such as enhanced closed-captioning and games that are not possible with traditional analog technology.

    EZ Tip: Don’t be confused about the transition. It is important to understand that the change from analog to digital is not a change from analog to high definition.

    The change is to digital broadcasting which also includes high definition.

    Digital broadcasting allows for high definition, but you don’t have to have a high definition TV to watch digital television.

    Digital broadcasting includes standard definition, enhanced definition and high definition formats. We have more information digital formats on another page.

    If you want to watch high definition, you must have a
    high definition capable television


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