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South Africa is moving from analogue terrestrial television to digital broadcasting in the very near future (while the deadline is meant to be June 2019, government says it will definitely be before July 2020). The reason behind this is that digital transmission affords far superior quality in terms of colour, sound and brightness. Furthermore, a move away from analogue will free up the cluttered frequency spectrum, meaning it becomes available for other wireless sources. It will also result in more TV channels being available, which will in turn boost competition and hopefully therefore improve quality and innovation in the broadcasting sector.

What this means for consumers is that if they are currently accessing any channels on an analogue TV, they will no longer be able to do so after the switchover. Matthew Louw, Marketing Supervisor, LG Electronics says that previously, the only option to convert to digital TV was to use a set-top box – a device that decodes digital signal for the TV so that the image can be displayed. “With the newer TV sets on the market, consumers now have the option of purchasing a TV with a built-in digital decoder. This means that the TV does not need a set-top box to receive digital signal.”

Louw notes that this technology is still quite new to the South African market and the full benefits of digital TV have not even been realised yet, and so consumers need to specifically ask for a digital TV when purchasing a new TV. Here are three questions he suggests asking:

  1. What makes more sense for me – a set-top box or a digital-ready TV? Louw suggests purchasing a digital ready TV, “As an example, all LG TV’s manufactured from 2015 are digital ready, which means consumers effectively “future-proof” their TV viewing for the foreseeable future”.
  2. Is this TV digital-ready? If you’re uncertain as to whether your current TV is digital-ready, or you are looking at a specific TV to buy, check for the labels normally used to describe a digital-ready TV:
    • Integrated Digital Tuner
    • Digital Tuner Built-In
    • Digital Receiver
    • Digital Tuner
    • DTV
    • DVB-T2

If you can’t find one of these logos or descriptions on the TV or in the specifications, it is probably an analogue television.

  1. How do I plan on using this TV? If you don’t currently watch any channels through a terrestrial aerial (e.g. if you only watch TV through your satellite decoder or use streaming services through a smart TV), you probably won’t think about purchasing a digital TV. Remember, however, that new channels may be launched after the switchover, so if you don’t want to miss out on those, you may want to consider a digital-ready TV.