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The digital television transition (also called the digital switchover (DSO) or analog switchoff (ASO), sometimes analog sunset) is the process in which analog television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television. This primarily involves both TV stations and over-the-air viewers; however it also involves content providers like TV networks, and cable TV conversion to digital cable.

The scale of the transition can vary: at one extreme, a small, low-power transmitter can be converted to digital. This is what happened at Ferryside and Llansteffan in the UK, and is normally conducted as a trial, although it can be a permanent change. At the other extreme, a whole country can be converted from analogue to digital television, which most recently occurred in Denmark in November 2009.

In many countries, a simulcast service is operated where a broadcast is made available to viewers in both analog and digital at the same time. As digital becomes more popular, it is likely that the existing analogue services will be removed. In some cases this has already happened, where a broadcaster has offered incentives to viewers to encourage them to switch to digital or simply switched their service regardless of whether they want to switch. In other cases government policies have been introduced to encourage or force the switchover process, especially with regard to terrestrial broadcasts.

Government intervention usually involves providing some funding for broadcasters and, in some cases monetary relief to viewers, to enable a switchover to happen by a given deadline.

The facility with which digital switchover can be achieved depends not only on the size of the area and number of transmitters to be converted, but also on the number of viewers who rely on the analogue signal as their primary or only means of TV reception. In Berlin, for example, most residents were using cable television, so only a small number of households needed the new equipment necessary for digital reception. On the other hand, only around 65% of UK households had access to multi-channel television as of summer 2005.[1] This left around 10 million households who would be forced to convert to another means of receiving television by the time digital switchover reaches their area.


Purpose of the transition

Almost all analog formats in current use were standardized between the 1940s and 1950s and have had to be adapted to the technological innovations since then. Initially offering only black and white images with monophonic sound, the formats have had to be modified to broadcast in color, stereo sound, SAP, captioning, and other information all while being backwards compatible with televisions unable to use the features. Additionally, engineers have had to implement these protocols within the limits of a set bandwidth and the tolerances of an inefficient analog format.

However during this time, the application and distribution of digital communications evolved and proved to be a superior means to distribute the same content. A Digital television transmission is more efficient, easily integrating other digital processes, for features completely unavailable or unimaginable with analog formats.

  • For the end-user, digital television has potential for resolutions and sound fidelity comparable with blu-ray home video and with digital multiplexing, it is also possible to offer subchannels, distinct simulcast programming, from the same broadcaster.
  • For government and industry, digital television reallocates the radio spectrum so that can be auctioned off by the government. In the subsequent auctions, telecommunications industries can introduce new services and products in mobile telephony, wi-fi internet, and other nationwide telecommunications projects.

Around the world


Transition completed

World map of digital television transition progress. Legend:      Transition completed, all analog signals terminated      Transition completed for full-power signals only; LPTV stations still being broadcast in analog      Transition in progress, broadcasting both analog and digital signals      Transition not yet started, broadcasting analog signals only      Does not intend to transition, broadcasting analog signals only      No information available
Notice on Finnish analog TV, telling people about the shutdown.
  •  Luxembourg was the first country to complete the move to digital broadcasting on September 1, 2006.
  •  Netherlands moved to digital broadcasting on December 11, 2006. The switch-off was helped greatly by the fact that about 90% of the households subscribe to cable systems which continue to use analog distribution, thus their old tuners continued to be useful.
  •  Finland ceased analog terrestrial transmissions nationwide at 4am, September 1, 2007[2] (switch-off was previously planned for the midnight after August 31 but a few extra hours were added for technical reasons). Cable TV viewers continued to receive analogue broadcasts until the end of February 2008.
  •  Andorra completed its switch-off on September 25, 2007.[3]
  •  Sweden: The switch-off of the analogue terrestrial network progressed region–by–region. It started on the island of Gotland on September 19, 2005, and was completed on October 29, 2007, when the last analogue SVT1 transmitters in Blekinge and western Scania were shut down.[4] Cable distributors are allowed to continue broadcasting analogue television.
  •  Switzerland began with the switch-off on July 24, 2006 in Ticino and continued with Engadin on November 13, 2006. The switch-off was completed on November 26, 2007.
  •  Belgium (Flanders): the situation is rather complex, as media regulations are under regional legislation. Flanders switched off analogue television on November 3, 2008, because coverage is already at 99 percent. Wallonia has announced March 1, 2010 as the date it will switchoff its analogue terrestrial RTBF television transmitters.
  •  Germany started the switch-off in the Berlin area, beginning on November 1, 2002 and completing on August 4, 2003. "Simulcast" digital transmissions started in other parts of the country in an effort to prepare for a full switchover. The switch-off of terrestrial analogue transmitters was completed on November 25, 2008, except one main transmitter in Bad Mergentheim which was shut down in June 2009. Analogue cable and satellite broadcasts remain available for the time being; the public broadcasters announced to switch off those services in 2012.
  •  United States ended all full-power analog broadcasts at midnight on June 12, 2009. Low power television stations continue to be broadcast in analog in several areas until their final analog shutoff dates, which are yet to be determined. The United States is the first non-European nation to switch off analog signals.
  •  Isle of Man switched off all analog services on July 16, 2009.[5]
  •  Denmark switched off all analog services at midnight on November 1, 2009.[6]
  •  Norway: The switch-off of the analogue transmissions started in March 2008 and was completed on December 1, 2009. Norway started its DTT service on the 1st September 2007.[7]
  •  Belgium (Wallonia): All analogue services in Wallonia switched off on March 1, 2010, making Belgium completely full digital nationwide.

Transition in progress

  •  Argentina: Digital television broadcasts started on September 9, 2008 in Buenos Aires. The analogue network will be terminated on July 9, 2016.
  •  Australia: Digital television commenced in Australia's five most populous cities on 1 January 2001. The Australian government originally planned a switch-off of analog TV in 2008. This has now been delayed to 2010 for some regional areas and to 2013 for the rest of the country.[8][9] Until that time, free-to-air stations will be simulcast, along with digital-only channels like ABC2. Since 1999, legislation has required all locally made free-to-air television transmissions to be in 16:9 widescreen format. Cable television networks began simulcasting in 2004 and analog cable services were switched off in April 2007. The full date for the final analog switchoff is December 31, 2013.
  •  Austria began analogue switch-off on March 5, 2007, progressing from the west to the east.[10]
  •  Brazil began free-to-air HD digital transmissions, after a period of test broadcasts, on December 2, 2007 in São Paulo, expanding in January 2008 to Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte.[11] Digital broadcasts will be phased into the other 23 state capitals by the end of 2009, and to the remaining cities by December 31, 2013.[12] Analogue and digital simulcasts will continue until June 29, 2016, when analogue will be discontinued. The main broadcasters (Globo, Record, Band, SBT and RedeTV!) are simulcasting in analogue and digital broadcast, in standard definition and 1080i high definition.
  •  Bulgaria will complete its analog switch-off in December 2012.
  •  Canada: The main FTA broadcasters (CBC, CTV, and Global) have launched HD streams of their programming in limited markets such as Toronto and Vancouver. On May 17, 2007, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC, Canada's broadcasting authority) ruled that television stations would be forced to switch to ATSC digital broadcasting by August 31, 2011, with minor exceptions in remote areas where analogue transmissions will not cause interference.[13] As of May 2007 there were fewer than 20 digital television stations in Canada. Unlike in the other countries, Canada originally was allowing the market to determine when the analogue switch-off begins. As a result, while analogue and digital broadcasts currently co-exist, digital transmission penetration is still low, and the only way to receive Canadian digital TV in most areas is via cable or satellite TV. In Toronto it is possible to pick up DTV over the air; in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City a partial set of channels (most often CBC only) are offered – primarily as a vehicle for limited HDTV deployments. About one-half of Canadian homes have over-the-air access to high-powered US border stations, all of which offer ATSC DTV. New TV's and DVD recorders often include ATSC tuners but are not required to do so; retail-store availability of basic converters for existing NTSC TV's is limited.[14] (Wikinews)
  •  Chile: the switch-off will be completed in 2017.
  •  Colombia: plans to close down analogue on January 1, 2020.
  •  Croatia: plans to close down analogue broadcasting in 2010.
  •  Costa Rica: plans to close down analogue for in December, 2018.
  •  Cyprus: Analog broadcasting will stop as of 1 July 2011. Digital broadcasting of free view channels will begin in January 2010 by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation with private TV stations set to follow in about 15 months. Most new TV sets available in the market since at least 2005 included built-in DVB-T receivers with MPEG-2 MP@ML decoders. On 13 March 2009, the Office of the Commissioner of Telecommunications and Postal Regulation formally adopted the MPEG-2 standard, but on 18 November 2009, it changed its decision now adopting the MPEG-4 H.264 standard making most new receivers in the country obsolete.
  •  Czech Republic: started the switch-off in September 2007 and should finish by November 2011 (some regions June 2012). The areas of Domažlice, West Bohemia, Prague, Central Bohemia, and South Bohemia have already switched off analog broadcasting of ČT2.
  •  El Salvador: The target date is January 1, 2014.
  •  Estonia: In Estonia analog switch-off date has been set for July 1, 2010.[15]
  •  France will have completed the switch-off in November 2011. 80% of the population will be able to see TNT in 2008.
  •  Greece: the switch-off will complete after the end of 2011. [1].
  •  Hong Kong's analogue broadcasting is planned to be switched off by 2012.[16]
  •  Hungary is scheduled to switch off analogue broadcasting on January 1, 2012.
  •  Ireland's broadcaster RTÉ plans to make digital television available to most of the population by 2010. [2], and the switchoff is planned to be complete by 2012. [3].
  •  Israel: Israel started digital transmissions in MPEG-4 on August 2, 2009. The official timeline for ASO is December 31, 2010.
  •  Italy: the deadline for the transition to digital broadcasting is December 31, 2012, as enacted by Italian law ("Legge 29 novembre 2007, n. 222").
  •  Japan is also running an intense nationwide campaign announcing the planned switchover to digital terrestrial and satellite television on July 24, 2011. Analogue high-television broadcast ended on September 30, 2007[17]. Many television stations across the country have already begun broadcasting simultaneously in digital.
  •  Latvia's analogue television will be completely switched off in June 2010.
  •  Lithuania: the government aims to switch off all analogue television broadcasting on October 29, 2012.
  •  Kenya become the second African country after South Africa to start digital broadcasting on December 9, 2009. The analog network is set to be switched off in June 2012 [18]
  •  Macedonia will complete its analog switch-off in May 2012.
  •  Mexico has a 20-year plan to switch, with the target year of 2022 for the analogue shut-off.[19] Some digital signals are already on-air, the first being Tijuana's XETV – an English-language affiliate of The CW serving primarily San Diego, California. Groups of cities which are required to simulcast digitally are added in descending order of size, with full coverage of the smallest centres required for 2021.
  •  Malaysia: Information Ministry was planning to shut down the country's analogue television system in phases beginning from 2012 and set to convert to full digital TV in 2015.
  •  New Zealand: It was announced on the November 29, 2007 that the analogue TV broadcasts will end within the next 6 to 10 years and expect a switch off date to be announced by 2012. Digital broadcast via Freeview become available late 2007. More recent estimates of this switch-off date have been in the area of 2013 to 2015 [20] A tentative date will be set when digital uptake reaches 60% (55% reached as of November 2008).[21]
  •  Poland: The analog broadcast will stop on 31 July 2013.
  •  Portugal's government aims to complete the digital switchover by 2012; digital broadcasts started on April 29, 2009. Portugal's government hopes to cover 80% of the territory with DTV by the end of 2009, and simulcasts will remain until April 26, 2012, when the analogue broadcasting ends.
  •  Peru plans to close down analogue in July 28, 2020. On air with ISDB-T from March 2010.[22]
  •  Philippines: The Philippine Government will terminate all analogue transmissions by December 31, 2015. Probably, DTT transmissions will start by early 2010 because the Philippine government is not decided for the official system to be used.
  •  Romania is scheduled to switch off analogue broadcasting in January 1, 2012.
  •  Russia has announced that the switch-off is to be completed in 2015.[23]
  •  Serbia: first launched DTT-only Channel in 2008. First DTT transmissions are launched in 2005. The government aims to complete ASO by 2011.[24]
  •  Slovakia: the government aims to complete the digital switchover by 2012.
  •  Slovenia: the switch-off will be completed in 2010.
  •  South Africa: started simultaneous digital and analogue broadcasting in November 2008 in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Switch-off has not yet begun but is scheduled for completion by 1 November 2011.
  •  South Korea's analogue transmissions will be terminated nationwide on December 31, 2012, and major broadcasters like MBC, SBS or other affiliated networks, KBS are broadcasting both analog and digital TV in most major cities.
  •  Spain: the switch-off will be completed on or before April 3, 2010.[25]
  •  Taiwan: Digital television launched terrestrially throughout Taiwan on July 2, 2004. Currently, there are simulcasts of analogue and digital television. Analogue television will be ceased broadcasting in December 2012.
  •  Ukraine: analogue transmissions will be terminated on July 17, 2015. [4]. Switch-over commenced on April 1, 2009.
  •  United Kingdom: Following a technical trial in a small community in Wales on March 30, 2005, the "digital switchover" began in the UK on October 17, 2007 with Whitehaven in Cumbria,[26] and is proceeding to a transmitter switchover timetable, implemented by region. The last transmitters are London, Tyne Tees and Ulster, that will be switched off by the end of 2012.[27] The process is managed by Digital UK, with some viewers eligible for the Digital Switchover Help Scheme.
  •  Venezuela: plans to close down analogue television on January 1, 2020.

Digital-to-analog converters

After the switch from analog to digital broadcasts is complete, analog TVs will be incapable of receiving over-the-air broadcasts without the addition of a set-top converter box. Consequently, a digital converter box – an electronic device that connects to an analog television – must be used in order to allow the television to receive digital broadcasts.[28] In the United States, the government is subsidizing the purchase of such boxes via their coupon-eligible converter box program, funded by a small part of the billions of dollars brought in by the spectrum auction of 12 of the upper UHF channels. The program is managed by the Department of Commerce through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration.[29]

European deployment

United Kingdom

     Switchover not yet started     Switchover in progress     Switchover complete

The DTV transition began in the United Kingdom as Freeview, broadcasting additional standard-definition (SD) programming using DVB-T. The United Kingdom has a phased switchover based upon region, with the last analogue signals to be shut down by the end of 2012.[30]

From the beginning of 2010, sites undergoing switchover will carry one multiplex of HDTV using the DVB-T2 standard. Also during 2010, sites switched over during 2008 and 2009 will be retro-fitted with the high-definition multiplex.

North American deployment

United States

All US full-power analog TV broadcasts came to an end on June 12, 2009.[31] New television devices that receive signals over-the-air, including pocket sized portable televisions, personal computer video capture card tuners and DVD recorders, have been required to include ATSC digital tuners since March 1, 2007.[32]

On September 8, 2008, Wilmington, North Carolina became the first city in America to fully switch over from analog to digital broadcasts. All analog signals were terminated at noon. This switchover was a test by FCC to make further improvements to the transition process before the whole nation was switched over to digital.[33]. By midnight on February 17, 2009, the original cut-off date set by the Congress, 641 stations representing 36 percent of U.S. full-power broadcasters were transmitting exclusively in digital.[34] After that, most of the remaining full-power U.S. broadcasters were beaming their signals in both analog and digital formats. LPTV stations will not yet be forced to go digital, but many have still been forced to change channels to those below 51, possibly deciding to flash-cut at a later date.

In a January, 2009 study, 70% of over-the-air viewers expected to get a DTV converter box, 10% would switch to pay TV services, and 20% would abandon TV altogether.[35] Based on this survey and considering that 13–15% of TV viewers depend on over-the-air TV,[36][37] 3% of the overall TV viewership might be lost due to the DTV conversion. Potential negative impacts on TV stations include reduced TV advertising and pledge drive revenue.

Cable TV systems are not required to convert, but must-carry rules will require local stations to be carried in analog for at least three years after the over-the-air cutoff, until early 2012. Must-carry rules requiring digital-only subchannels to be carried have been a source of contention.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Digi-tv esillä ympäri maata". Finnish Ministry of Communications. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  3. ^ "Andorra fa el salt a la TDT". Vilaweb. 
  4. ^ Teracom (2007-10-15). "Historisk övergång till digital-tv". Press release. 
  5. ^ arqiva. "Douglas transmitter group (Border region) – Arqiva confirms completion of Digital Switch Over". Press release. 
  6. ^ "Nyt TV-signal fejres med lysshow". TVTid på TV2. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  7. ^ "Norway completes ASO". 
  8. ^ Australia begins switch to digital television, Courier Mail, 2009-01-06, ISBN 8788775003422,,23739,24878877-5003422,00.html, retrieved 2009-01-07 
  9. ^ Conroy sets 2013 for digital switch | The Australian
  10. ^ "DVB-T: Zeitplan". Digitales Fernsehen Förder GmbH. June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  11. ^ Cassia, Fernando (2007-12-02). ""Brazil starts HDTV transmissions". The Enquirer. pp. 1. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  12. ^ "Conheça os planos das emissoras para a TV digital" (in Portuguese). G1. 2007-11-13. pp. 1.,,MUL178244-6174,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  13. ^ "Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-53: Determinations regarding certain aspects of the regulatory framework for over-the-air television". Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  14. ^ As of 2008, and are the only national chains carrying ATSC converters.
  15. ^ "". Levira AS. August 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  16. ^ "Digital TV". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 2007-06-04. 
  17. ^ "Broadcasting Digitization Schedule". DPA: The Association for Promotion of Digital Broadcasting. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  18. ^ Daily Nation, December 9, 2009: Digital TV a reality in Kenya
  19. ^ Cofetel
  20. ^ Analogue switch-off estimates between 2013-2013
  21. ^
  22. ^ "日本とペルー、地デジで協力 人材交流や技術移転 [Japan-Peru cooperate on Digital terrestrial television, personnel resource exchange and technical transfer]" (in Japanese). Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 2009-08-21. Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  23. ^ (Russian) Ministry for Informatics and Communications. Federal Program "Developing in Television and Radio Broadcasting in the Russian Federation in 2008-2015"
  24. ^ Serbia launches DTT channel
  25. ^ (Spanish) Disposición adicional primera del Real Decreto 944/2005, de 29 de julio, published in BOE del 30 de julio
  26. ^ "First digital TV switch date set". BBC News. 2007-03-15. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "What is a set-top converter box?". Digital TV Facts. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  29. ^ "Digital TV subsidy program running out of money". Assoiciated Press. 2008-01-03. 
  30. ^ "Digital - Switchover". BBC. March 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  31. ^ United States Congress (2009-01-29). "DTV Delay Act [ Pub.L. 111-4"] (PDF). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  32. ^ "FCC rule requires all new TVs to be digital". The Boston Globe. 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Federal Communications Commission (2009-02-18). "DTV Call Centers Field Over 28,000 Calls Tuesday". Press release. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  35. ^ "Terrestrial TV viewing to decline sharply post DTV transition". Broadcast Engineering. 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  36. ^
  37. ^

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