Digital switchover and beyond: what it means

Picture of an old TVIf you're not in London then the chances are that you've already gone through the digital switchover process. Within a matter of weeks the capital will catch up and by the end of the year the whole country will have moved to digital TV - so what does this mean if you still haven't taken action? And what's all this about TV changing all over again shortly afterwards?
The first thing is not to panic. Contrary to a lot of early publicity your TV will still work, it just won't be able to receive an analogue signal - that's the old-style version that transmitted terrestrial channels BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and 5. If you can already see more than these channels, through a Sky box, digibox, Virgin box or anything else, you're covered.

If you're just getting these channels through an aerial then you'll need to get a digital box of some sort or replace your TV. Old video recorders, for those who still have them, with an aerial input will also need replacing - they'll play things back fine but they will no longer get a signal to record. A good option is a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) - look for Freeview+ to get this (and pause live TV) without a contract, Freesat+ if you have a satellite dish and no contract.

If you don't mind taking on a contract you can get something from BT, Virgin or Sky.


The other two trends you might have heard of are 3D TV and IP TV. 3D is as you'd expect, a 3D spin on existing content. You'll need a compatible TV and HD channels or a 3D-capable DVD player to view the programmes. Frankly the market hasn't quite taken off in the UK as the manufacturers had hoped; the programmes and movies just haven't been compelling enough.

More interesting is the prospect of IP TV. IP stands for Internet Protocol and this is essentially the convergence between Internet and television services. You may have elements of this already. The handful of people who have bought an Apple TV - the little box that sits under the telly rather than the bigger thing that's rumoured to be coming out at the end of the year - can rent films and TV shows over the Internet to their tellies. Owners of any modern mainstream games console which is connected to a network will be able to get BBC iPlayer and similar services onto their TV using these devices.

More recently TVs have been released - and more will follow - with these services, plus YouTube, Flickr and others, built in. These are coming down in price already and are known as Smart TVs. Meanwhile in America Google has built Google TV - here's a video:

This has not come to the UK yet but a team is in place at Google to make it happen. No time scale is available as yet, but the multi-window TV is not far away.

And of course there are rumours about Apple doing something. Granted there are always rumours about Apple doing something because it never pre-announces stuff. However, the smart money says there will indeed be an Apple TV style product by the end of the year, presumably with much of the existing Apple TV content built into the television itself. Other rumours say you'll be able to control it by voice (using similar technology to Siri, the voice app on the current iPhone) or gesture as you can with the Xbox.

Clearly nobody knows just yet. But as long as you can get some sort of picture on your TV and have some sort of digital signal after April, this could look like a very bad time to be buying a new telly. I'd wait until the Google, Apple and other offerings have emerged - so we can see what's going to be worth purchasing in 2013.

Blogger Guy Clapperton is the author of "This Is Social Media".

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