The past few years has seen the United Kingdom adjust to digital television and radio as a standard feature of a range of entertainment and communications options available within the home and through mobile devices. The digital transition was accelerated by a gradual switchover from analogue signals in 2009, and has been enhanced by the convergence of broadband, phone, and television packages within many homes.
A growing amount of people now receive services like sky tv alongside phone calls and their Internet, while the expansion of fibre optic technologies has made super fast transmission a reality. The differences between analogue and digital airwaves are therefore substantial, both in terms of how information is sent, and its consequences.
On a basic level, analogue airwaves are those sent from stations to homes, where they are picked up by an antenna and converted into sound and video. Analogue signals tend to vary significantly in terms of strength. They represented the foundation for broadcasting signals for most the 20th century, and were enhanced by satellite technology that transmitted signals over a much broader area.
By comparison, digital airwaves rely on the transmission of data through the air, cables, and satellites. A digital signal is made up of a multiple bits, which are then reassembled by a decoder at the point of reception. Unlike analogue signals, digital signals only have finite variations, and tend to produce more consist streams of information. However, there is no difference between a weak and strong signal, meaning that they will be received or not received at all.
Benefits of Digital Airwaves
The benefits of digital airwaves are extensive compared to analogue signals. Digital airwaves allow for more data to be compressed, which means that television providers like Sky can fit more channels onto a system. This higher bandwidth also creates the capacity for High Definition and 3D channels, as well as interactive features, digital radio stations, and audio enhancement features.
Digital signals are also able to provide generally higher image resolution and sound quality, while digital ready television sets tend to be sleeker and lighter than older analogue boxes. In the same way, digital signals and televisions are more easily packaged with broadband Internet and game consoles, allowing you to run everything through a single unit. Other benefits of this form of convergence include being able to save money on bundled packages with providers.
While few, there are some disadvantages to digital signals. As previously noted, a digital signal is more likely to cut out altogether than experience the static or interference associated with analogue forms. Moreover, although digital decoder boxes are cheap and easy to use, more complex tuners are typically more expensive, and may require installation of a wideband aerial.
Digital airwaves can also be converted for older analogue television sets, but with a loss of the image and sound quality of newer digital receivers. Backwards compatibility with older models is therefore not feasible, and may require investment in new hardware. More generally though, digital airwaves have helped to make digital communications and entertainment much faster, while increasing choice for consumers.