Digital switchover explained Will I need a new TV aerial?
This article, Digital switchover explained, was last updated on 18 March 2010 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.
Many people worry that they'll need to pay for a new TV aerial to receive Freeview TV after the switchover, but for most people their current aerial will be up to the job.
Who will need a new TV aerial?
Only those who want to get their digital TV service via Freeview may need a new aerial. If you want to watch TV via a Virgin Media cable TV service or a satellite TV service such as Freesat or Sky, you definitely won't need a new aerial.
If you're receiving digital TV via Freeview you may want a new aerial, but for most households, the existing TV aerial is sufficient to get a decent digital Freeview signal - regulator Ofcom estimates that only 5-10% of homes will need a new TV aerial to receive Freeview after the switch to digital.
If you currently receive a good Freeview signal, your existing TV aerial should still work afterwards. Even if you can't pick up a Freeview signal right now, don't assume you'll need to buy a new aerial.
The current Freeview signal is too weak in some areas of the UK for TV aerials to pick it up, but the digital switchover will strengthen the Freeview signal.
Are there any indoor aerials available for digital TV?
Yes. If you have a TV in a room where there's no socket to connect it to your rooftop aerial, there are plenty of indoor aerials to choose from which can improve or boost the digital signal to your TV.
Prices for indoor aerials start from around £15, but in our Which? tests, some performed better than others.
Visit our indoor aerial reviews to find the best indoor aerial.
Why you might need a new TV aerial
There are no specific regions that will need a new TV aerial after the digital switchover, and if your TV aerial is in good condition, it’s likely that it will be fine. But you may need a new TV aerial if:
- your current TV aerial has suffered general wear and tear, such as rusting or weather damage. If you suspect this, contact a TV aerial installer registered to the Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) or the Registered Digital Installers Licensing Body (RDI-LB), or one recommended by Which? members on Which? Local.
- channels switch frequency and your aerial doesn’t pick up that frequency. A minority of households may find the channels they receive now may switch frequency during the digital switchover. If you don’t have a wide-band aerial that covers virtually all frequencies, your aerial may not pick up those channels. Digital UK is advising which areas will be affected by this as each TV region approaches the switchover. But Digital UK says to wait until the switch has happened before getting a new TV aerial, as the chances are your current one will be fine.
Some people will see an improvement in picture quality with digital TV. But if you have a good analogue TV picture, there's a risk that digital TV might look worse because it compresses images and electronically removes details that it thinks you won't notice.
Some people have written to us regarding interference to their Freeview TV signal causing pictures to break up, sometimes making programmes unwatchable. Mobile phones, heavy rain and even passing traffic affect digital TV reception, according to those who have contacted us.
The quality of the digital signal should improve when the analogue signal is switched off. But until then, digital TV signals in some areas will be weak and patchy. For some, this can be solved with a better rooftop TV aerial.
TV aerial costs and installation
Digital UK says a new TV aerial can cost from £60 to £180, plus £45 for an additional socket, but don’t automatically take the first quote you get.
In February 2009, we found prices varied across the country from £55 to £215 for a full installation when we called 24 aerial installers recommended on Which? Local and in some cases prices within a single region varied by more than £100, so shop around, getting at least three quotes before you settle for one.
If you do need a new TV aerial to receive digital TV, follow these Which? tips to make sure you find a reputable installer:
- Check Which? Local – a free service for Which? members – for recommended TV aerial installers in your area.
- Look for installers approved by the CAI or the RDI-LB – they have lists of approved TV aerial installers on their websites.
- Be wary of TV aerial installers that tell you about ‘digital aerials’ or 'Freeview aerials' – there are no such things.
- Watch out for any TV aerial installer that tries to get you to agree to work before they've come out and viewed your home and your TV aerial.
When we mystery shopped aerial installers in the Granada TV region, we found that those who were recommended on Which? Local or approved by the CAI or RDI-LB all gave good advice on whether we'd need a new aerial after digital switchover.
To find out more about the equipment you need for digital TV switchover, visit our page of digital switchover frequently asked questions.