Digital television in the UK

The UK has an all-digital television service. Each broadcast channel (e.g. 64) carries several TV or radio stations. They are sent in chunks one after the other by multiplexing, which is why each channel is called a 'multiplex'.

The freeview system, that is sent from terrestrial (ground-based) transmitters, works like this. If your analogue reception is poor you will probably need a new aerial, or will need to amplify the signal, to watch Freeview.

In May of 2008 a free satellite system, called freesat, was started by the BBC and ITV. It sends a wide range of programmes, including all of the BBC and Independent TV programmes. There is no joining or monthly fee. All you need to buy is the dish and box to receive the programmes. The satellites are the same ones as used for Sky so if you have an existing Sky dish, it should work, or you could buy such equipment very cheaply new or even secondhand.

You should buy a 'quad low-noise-block' (quad LNB) for the dish as this will enable you to feed up to four satellite boxes. There is more about how to set up such a system on the freesat dishes and receivers page.

By 2014 the freesat service had developed dramatically. All the main channels were 1080i high definition. In February an additional satellite went into service after four months testing. It is called Astra 2E and is positioned in the existing cluster at 28.2/28.5 east. It will take over transmission for BSkyB, Channel4, ITV and BBC programming to the British Isles. Presumably the old satellites are getting near their end of life or lacked the capacity for HD.



(C) Peter Scott 2009

Last edit 26 December 2015