Antennas have been used for over 100 years to receive radio signals; one of the most famous transmissions ever made was conducted between Signal Hill in St. John’s Newfoundland and Poldhu, Cornwall in England–in 1901! Transmitting data over radio, whether it’s audio, visual, or digital signal has been a commonplace thing since then.
From 1927 through to the mid-1950s the only way that television signals were transmitted was through over-the-air or OTA signals. For nearly 70 years a variety of standards were established for these radio broadcasts around the world, with relatively acceptable quality being the norm, with new technology advancements rolling out as they became available. From black and white to colour, from mono to stereo, OTA was a free way for TV watchers to enjoy local signals.
In the mid-1990s interest in Digital TV began to grow, laying the groundwork for shutting down the analogue OTA network and replacing it with a higher quality version broadcasting digital audio and digital video. Across Canada we have seen the abolition of the analogue OTA network almost everywhere, except for in certain northern communities. The CRTC set a date of August 31, 2011, mandating ATSC (advanced television systems committee) as the standard for digital terrestrial TV. All new televisions should include digital tuners.
Those tuners are handy, but in order to receive a digital signal you’re going to need
an antenna (editors note: I’d originally labelled this as a “digital antenna” because you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything not labelled that nowadays. If you have an older antenna connected to a digital box you’ll still get digital signal and don’t need to upgrade. this is directed to new purchasers). Let’s take a look at three together.
a digital antenna
I’ve actually had some experience with this antenna, having installed one in my parent’s home in rural Ontario. The flexibility of an indoor/outdoor antenna speaks for itself: you can stick this on a mast–that’s a really long pole outside your house–or you can install it indoors if you have a view of where the signal is coming from. Attics can be a great place to install an antenna like this, assuming that you have a line of sight to your source. You can expect a range of about 105km (or more) with this antenna properly installed.
Installing it on the roof – TV from the USA!
We installed this antenna on my dad’s roof, next to his satellite dish; as I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to be a cord cutter to enjoy an antenna; in my dad’s case he gets use out of it when satellite goes down, and he gets access to certain channels that are broadcast from Buffalo that aren’t part of his satellite package.
You’ll need to run co-axial cable from your antenna to your display device; if you opt for table-top or wall mounting of your antenna that may be a short run, but if it’s up on the roof you’ll need to be prepared to run that cable. If you’ve have an antenna or a satellite dish in the past you may be able to use the coaxial cable that’s already there. In some cases, if you have a coaxial cable network in your house, you can connect your antennas to that.
Geared more towards indoor use, an antenna like this is great if you’re not looking to get outside on the roof or if you live in a space where you simply don’t have access or permission for an outdoor device. It has an in-line preamplifier kit that boosts the signal with a 20dB gain, helping to make the reception of weaker signals possible. The nice thing about this particular antenna is that it comes with a length of coaxial cable to hook it up.
Like the ClearStream Indoor Antenna, the Philips is built to receive Digital TV signals. It has its own 25dB amplifier as well as a noise reduction filter to help protect against signal loss.
How to get your antenna working
Your antenna, as mentioned above, is going to connect to your television with coaxial cable; that’s the good old cable that has been carrying cable TV and satellite TV signals to your display for almost 30 years. That coaxial cable can run both indoors and outdoors–with the right cable, of course. Only use outdoor rated cables in outdoor applications, and in-wall cables if you’re going to be hiding the wires in-wall in your home.
When you’ve connected your coaxial cable to both your antenna and your display you’re halfway there. How do you get the channels available to you?
Scanning for channels
Generally when you’ve connected your antenna it will be under an input labelled either ANT or CABLE (unintuitive, I know). Most new TVs are actually fairly smart: they’ll recognize that there’s a new antenna attached and they’ll begin to scan for those channels right away. If not you can prompt your TV to scan for digital antenna signals by finding that option in your menus.
Your TV will begin to scan through the available digital channels in your area by scanning through a range of frequencies. As it finds strong signals it will assign those signals to channels. With most modern displays you can assign channel names, helping you to organize your viewing.
One thing to keep in mind is that the signal that you’re receiving is directional. Experiment with where you put your antenna in order to find out what’s available to you.
As always, exercise safety when installing your new antenna. If you’re unsure of the process or if you need assistance, speak to the Geek Squad at your local Best Buy; a professional installation can go a long way to making your experience with your new antenna a good one.