Smart Consumer: Are you prepared for the big switch to digital TV?
Today, the first advertising campaign from Saorview kicks off to let us know that late next year analogue television will be switched off.
You don't have to do anything now, and you won't need to buy a new TV, but by the end of next year if you haven't prepared you could be looking at a blank screen.
Saorview is a digital TV service, owned and managed by RTÉ, who have been charged with implementing the switch, as per EU rules, by the end of 2012.
As the name suggests it is a free-to-air television service and will replace the system that has been in place since 1962.
By this May it will already be accessible to 97% of the population and the service includes all the Irish channels plus a few extra like RTÉ News Now, and all the digital RTÉ radio stations.
So what will the 1.6 million TV homes in Ireland have to do?
1 600,000 Irish households receive some TV service through an aerial, with over half of those just using an aerial.
If your TV only uses an aerial you will have to buy a Saorview-approved set-top box (for each TV) to get the new service. Currently that box costs €100 but as more competition enters the market, the price is likely to come down, so wait a while.
In addition, there may be a government subvention scheme but details are yet to be announced. Once you have the box, the service is free, as now.
2 If you use an aerial but don't receive TV3 then it may be pointing in the wrong direction.
If you don't get TV3 or TG4 through your aerial you may need a new aerial. This will cost approximately €140-€160.
3 62,000 households use free-to-air satellite, and this category has grown by 39% in a year.
Free-to-air doesn't provide Irish channels but you have the option to buy them with it or you could buy a Saorview box.
4 The majority of TV households in Ireland (around one million) subscribe to either Sky or UPC. If you count yourself among this number, you won't have to do anything.
However, it is not confirmed yet if Sky or UPC will provide the additional digital channels provided by Saorview.
5 If you are buying a new telly any time soon, buy an integrated digital television (iDTV), as then you won't need to buy a set-top box at all.
6 If you live near the border and currently receive analogue overspill UK services from Northern Ireland via an aerial, you may receive digital UK overspill after the analogue signal is turned off at the end of 2012.
You will still need the Saorview-approved box, though. Likewise, if you're in Wexford and can currently receive UK digital overspill (most likely from Wales) then the Saorview box should decode it for you.
The digital switchover has already happened in Wales so if you can receive UK channels and services now, then you should be able into the future.
Useful website: www.saorview.ie