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OT: FTA, Freeview & terrestial discussion
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The Robman
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the world of universal cable boxes, there are an awful lot of them that respond to the same remote signals, which is because most of them are made at the same factory in China. It could be the same story for these off-brand STBs also.

Now, how would you classify these boxes, are they SAT boxes or HDTV/FTA type of boxes?
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mappedyr



Joined: 20 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess they are what you call HDTV/FTA. In UK they are freeview boxes. It is terrestrial based digital TV/Radio. Since a new generation of these boxes has already appeared where they use MPEG4 instead of MPEG2 and have a higher resolution, they will not be known as HDTV-boxes here in Denmark.

Cheers,
Kjeld
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underquark
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are DVB-T (T for errestrial as opposed to DVB-S for Satellite) and are common in UK, Germany, Finland, Australia etc. They are probably going to get a lot more common over the next five years or so as are integrated digital TVs and digital (hard disk) recorders (Topfield, Humax etc.) BBC are also working on a project called "Pandora" that records all the current channels all week so that you can select anything from the past seven days from about thirty channels.

The UK TV scene is moving over completely from analogue to digital (MPEG2, standard resolution) as th Government sells off licences for parts of the transmission spectrum. Somewhat over half of us get digital now but some can't get it at all. Starting 2008 the analogue services will be switched off completely meaning that many will have to buy digital receivers and some will have to go the satellite route as digital terrestrial won't reach them. See this Freeview FAQ.

HD broadasts are currently only available in Europe on Sky (and, maybe, cable); digital terrestrial HDTV is mooted and trials are, apparently, underway by the BBC but it will likely be 2012 before we get it and it will probably use MPEG4 rendering all current kit pretty much useless (even your "HD Ready" plasma screen will be nearing the end of its useful life by then).

Bottom line - expect many more new remotes, especially of the TV/PVR-type.
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The Robman
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you guys say "terrestrial" do you mean that you use a regular TV antenna (ariel) to pick it up?

Can the equipment only use MPEG2 or MPEG4, but not both?

Just FYI, the terms "freeview" and "FTA" are not really used in the States.
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underquark
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, terrestrial uses the same sort of antenna as analogue. Some people need to change their antenna because it might have been suitable for the old analogue channels (like 21 up to 50-ish) but some of the digital channels have been stuck up at 65 or 67 which is out of the bandwidth for their existing antenna. Also, with poor reception, you can get a grainy but watchable analogue picture but if you don't feed a signal with good enough strength or quality to a digital receiver you hit the "digital cliff" where a perfect picture suddenly falls off into a complete pixellated mess (accompanied but loud cracks, pops etc.) Just to add to the confusion, there are 6 multiplexes ("Muxes") and some carry just a few channels (with good quality) but some cram in a whole load of poor-quality channels (both in terms of signal strength and program content).

The UK TV sections of this very good site provides a wealth of information for anyone having reception problems in the UK.
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The Robman
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The concepts are the same as here in the States, but the terminology is different. I acquired a Panasonic TU-DST51A STB a few years back as part of a "job lot" of ReplayTV units on ebay. You can use this box to receive digital signals from any source, such as a SAT box but also including OTA (ie, terrestrial). I still have an old antenna on my roof, which I don't use anymore, so I hooked up the STB to the antenna to see what was out there. Most of the regular US TV networks (ie, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, etc) also broadcast a digital version of their regular broadcast. Some use the extra bandwidth to broadcast a couple of channels (eg, we can get the New York PBS station in addition to the Chicago one, IIRC) and others use it to broadcast in HD.

However, as there's no pratical way to get the STB box to work with my ReplayTV boxes, I've never really used it.
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mappedyr



Joined: 20 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Denmark (and other countries in Europe), we have DVB-T for terrestrial distribution and DVB-C for cable. Both systems can potentially run MPEG2 and MPEG4. For the moment, the DVB-T receivers can only handle MPEG-2. In many cases an indoor antenna is sufficient to receive the digital channels. The system supports true 16:9 and some channels have AC3 sound.

The largest cable based distributor introduced a HDTV box in connection to the world championship in soccer. It is a Sagem box running MPEG4 (and MPEG2). Unfortunately the box has proved rather faulty, but that's another story.

/Kjeld
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underquark
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

UK television glossary:

Freeview - television that is digital and free, except that you still have to pay the BBC a whopping great licence fee whether you ever watch one of their channels or not. Although you do get it for half-price if you're blind (BFD, BBC).

FTA - see Freeview

Digital TV - see Freeview

A fuller (and more official) list can be found here.
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andyross



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2006 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Out of curiosity, just how much are the license fees?
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underquark
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A UK TV licence costs - yearly - about 1.4 kidneys (131.50, US$250) and it's a legal requirement, punishable by roving death squads. Of course, if you have you wits about you, when they come to your door you can just say "Go away, I do not have a television and you do not have a warrant to search these premises" but they specialise in terrorising single mothers, the mentally ill and other vulnerable people and then taking them to court and forcing a 1000 fine. OF course, I pay my licence as I'm not stupid (or vulnerable or poor).

Dr. David Wall of Leeds University wrote:
In 1993, 292 women were imprisoned for non-payment of a TV licence fine, compared to 210 for violent crimes. The cost of imprisoning a TV licence defaulter was 2,130
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mappedyr



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can match that. In Denmark the yearly TV licence fee is DKK 2090 (GBP 189 or USD 357). And they just changed the rules. If you have a TV you must pay, even if you never watch Danish TV. The new thing is, that you must also pay the licence fee if you have an Internet connection on 256 kbits/s or more. Even if you have a mobile phone that can receive pictures from the Internet you have to pay the licence fee.

So practically everybody must pay the licence fee now. The government might as well change it into a tax, but the word "tax" isn't as sellable as "licence fee".

/Kjeld
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The Robman
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know how things are today in the UK, but back in the old days the official rules were that you only needed to pay the licence fee if you actually watched the BBC, and the fee less if you only had a black and white TV set. The officials had "TV Detector" vans that had the capability of detecting whether a TV was being used, whether it was color or B&W and what station it was tuned to. They would have lists of all the residences where a color licence hadn't been purchased, so they would go to these locations and check whether a TV was present and if so, was it tuned to the BBC.

I remember hearing a story of an old guy getting hit with a fine. He had only paid for a B&W licence because he had a B&W TV set, but they said that because his VCR was "color capable" he had to pay the color fee!

My bother used to work for a bank and the bank had a TV set in the lobby that they used to play promotional videos on. As this was the TVs only purpose, they didn't purchase a TV licence, but they got nabbed because some of the employees were using the set during their lunchbreak to watch regular TV and presumably they tuned to the BBC.
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underquark
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the UK you must - by law - pay the license fee if you use any equipment capable of receiving a broadcast whether you watch BBC channels or not. You do pay less for B&W and there are special rules for the elderly (75 and over), Nursing (Retirment) Home residents etc. Wikipedia has lots of links. One of the BBC's main arguments in favour of the license fee is that it alows broadcasts free of advertising and yet the BBC regularly advertises this (and many other BBC-related facts) on the BBC channels.
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aldaweb



Joined: 10 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Robman wrote:
I don't know how things are today in the UK, but back in the old days the official rules were that you only needed to pay the licence fee if you actually watched the BBC, and the fee less if you only had a black and white TV set. The officials had "TV Detector" vans that had the capability of detecting whether a TV was being used, whether it was color or B&W and what station it was tuned to. They would have lists of all the residences where a color licence hadn't been purchased, so they would go to these locations and check whether a TV was present and if so, was it tuned to the BBC.

I remember hearing a story of an old guy getting hit with a fine. He had only paid for a B&W licence because he had a B&W TV set, but they said that because his VCR was "color capable" he had to pay the color fee!

My bother used to work for a bank and the bank had a TV set in the lobby that they used to play promotional videos on. As this was the TVs only purpose, they didn't purchase a TV licence, but they got nabbed because some of the employees were using the set during their lunchbreak to watch regular TV and presumably they tuned to the BBC.

AFAIR It's always been the case that you need a licence for a TV whether you watched the BBC or not, it's the receiving equipment that the licence covers, hence the colour licence for the colour receiver in the VCR regardless of the TV being B&W.
There used to be a separate licence for a radio reciever before the days of transistor radios - even if you only had one in the car! Not so many people had TVs in those days though.
As Underquark says HDTV is only available on Sat or Cable - don't know about the Sat side but the Cable is mpeg2 and is only available with the cable PVR. There are trials of DTT HD in mpeg4 but since all 'Freeview' (that's just the name of the consortium who took over DTT Free To Air) boxes are mpeg2 ATM.
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The Robman
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I left the UK in 1988, so things have undoubtedly changed since then, but I'm pretty sure that you only had to pay the licence fee if you actually watched the BBC. If you bought a TV just so you could play video tapes or to watch ITV or CH4, I think you were OK without the licence.

That's why the detector vans could not only detect the presence of a TV but also what channel it was tuned to.
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