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Digital Television Frequency Assignments


Over-the-Air Digital TV (OTA DTv)


Contents -- Digital vs Analog TV | Digital Channels | Incidentals

One of the first steps to getting free DTv is to find transmitter towers in your area. Then with a little planning, and understanding best reception practices (Getting Free TV) and signal factors, you can get the most stations possible. Antenna selection depends on frequency bands, coverage, and antenna gain needed. Signal loss from cabling depends on cable length(s), signal splitters and connections. Outside Antennas should be properly grounded for best reception and safety.

DIGITAL vs ANALOG BROADCAST

Over-the-Air (OTA) digital television (DTv) requires a stronger signal than analog TV. Additionally, most DTv broadcast are in the UHF frequency band instead of the VHF band. UHF signals are higher in frequency and do not pass through or around objects as well as VHF signals. Also, over-the-air transmission and cable losses are greater at UHF frequencies. Antennas that picked up analog TV signals will also pick up digital TV signals, if the signal is strong enough.

  • Digital TV Requires a Stronger Signal.
  • Most DTv Stations are in the UHF Frequency Band.
    • Elevated terrain (Masking) blocks UHF signals.
    • UHF does not bend around large structures as well.
    • UHF dose not go through walls, roofs or objects as well.
  • Analog antenna's will pick up digital TV signals.

A digital television's picture quality is either 100%, or nothing. There is not a gradual degradation of picture for weaker signals, it's a steep cutoff. In contrast analog pictures degrade gradually, weaker signals have more noise or snow in the picture.

Analog TV broadcast in the United States ended June 12th(Friday), 2009. Since the introduction of digital TV, the number of over-the-air network channels has dramatically increased.

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The old analog TV channels were the same as their broadcast Radio Frequency (RF) channel, one network per channel.

Digital TV can broadcast multiple channels in 1 RF channel, and uses 2 types of channels;

  • the TV channel, also called Virtual channel. Digital channels are the virtual TV channel, then a dot or dash, then sub-channel number (e.g. 6.3 or 6-3). The number of sub-channels varies from 1 to 7 or more.
  • the broadcast RF channel.
Analog TVDigital TV
TV = RF
Channel
TV Channel
-- displayed
.Sub-channels
1 to 7 or more.
RF Broadcast Channel

A stations's TV channel could be the same as it's RF channel, but in most cases they are different.

In 2009 most analog stations changed their RF channel (and most VHF stations moved to UHF) for the DTv transition, but were allowed to keep their old analog channel identification as their TV or Virtual channel. The 2017 spectrum reallocation has over 10% of stations changing their RF broadcast channel, but not their virtual TV channel.

Sub channels can be in high or standard definition resolution. Audio can be in monotone, stereo, or surround sound. Most sub channels have program guides, closed caption, language, and other options.

Cable and satellite operators often compress local channels before re-broadcasting. The compression reduces picture quality compared to over-the-air broadcast. Compressing signals opens up more bandwidth and allows providers to squeeze in more channels nobody watches.

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SOME STATION'S CHANGING RF CHANNELS BETWEEN 2017-2020+
Some DTv stations will be changing RF channels over a 3+ year period, until about 2020 and probably longer. The FCC, at the direction of Congress in 2012, is re-allocating spectrum, forcing around 1000 TV stations to change RF Broadcast Channels. There are about 8000 TV stations in the U.S. and its' territories. See FCC Spectrum Auction Results, April 2017.

Stations Changing RF Channel
StationsPercentChange
1451.8%Go off-the-air
130.2%Move to VHF-Hi
170.2%Move to VHF-Lo
1000(1)12.5%Change UHF Channel
(1) -- approximate

When a TV Station Changes Broadcast (RF) Channels;

  • The displayed TV channel will not change, but you must re-scan all TV's.
  • You may have to adjust your antenna pointing angle if a station's tower location changes.
  • You will need a new antenna if a station changes to a frequency band your antenna does not receive.
  • A station must notify consumers with daily on-air announcements for at least 30 days prior to any change.

Television Broadcast Frequencies


A television Radio Frequency (RF) channel is allocated 6 MHz of bandwidth for over-the-air transmission in the VHF or UHF frequency band. The VHF band has 12 RF channels (2-13). The band is sometimes subdivided into VHF-Lo (channels 2-6), and VHF-Hi (channels 7-13). The UHF band originally had 70 RF channels (14-83), but was later reduced to 56 channels (14-69). Note, channel 37 is reserved for radio astronomy, leaving 55 UHF channels for TV broadcast.

TV FREQUENCY BANDS
BandRF ChannelsFrequency
VHF-Lo2 - 654 - 88 MHz
VHF-Hi7 - 13174 - 216 MHz
UHF14 - 69470 - 806 MHz
Each RF channel has a 6 MHz bandwidth
Television Frequency Bands (MHz)

VHF - Very High Frequency30 - 300MHz
UHF - Ultra High Frequency300 - 3000MHz

Also see;
-- Reception Factors Wavelength Calculator.
-- CopRadar.com/ Radio Frequency Bands.

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Television VHF Band (54 - 216 MHz)

VHF-Lo (54 - 88 MHz)
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
Government and Public Service30-50
Amateur Radio50-54
25754-60
36360-66
46966-72
Shared Use72-76
57976-82
68582-88
FM Radio88-108
Air Navigation108-118
Aircraft Voice (AM)118-138
Radar138-144
Amateur144-148
Police / Fire / Ambulance / Business148-164
Public Service164-174
VHF-Hi (174-216 MHz)
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
7177174-180
8183180-186
9189186-192
10195192-198
11201198-204
12207204-210
13213210-216
Radar216-225
Government 225-300

Television UHF Band (470 - 806 MHz)
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
14473470-476
15479476-482
16485482-488
17491488-494
18497494-500
19503500-506
20509506-512
21515512-518
22521518-524
23527524-530
24533530-536
25539536-542
26545542-548
27551548-554
28557554-560
29563560-566
30569566-572
31575572-578
32581578-584
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
33587584-590
34593590-596
35599596-602
36605602-608
37611608-614
38617614-620
39623620-626
40629626-632
41635632-638
42641638-644
43647644-650
44653650-656
45659656-662
46665662-668
47671668-674
48677674-680
49683680-686
50689686-692
51695692-698
Few Stations
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
52701698-704
53707704-710
54713710-716
55719716-722
56725722-728
57731728-734
58737734-740
59743740-746
60749746-752
61755752-758
62761758-764
63767764-770
64773770-776
65779776-782
66785782-788
67791788-794
68797794-800
69803800-806
No Longer Used for TV
RF
Channel
MHzBand-
width
70809806-812
71815812-818
72821818-824
73827824-830
74833830-836
75839836-842
76845842-848
77851848-854
78857854-860
79863860-866
80869866-872
81875872-878
82881878-884
83887884-890

Channel 37 is reserved for radio astronomy.
A few stations still use channels from 52-69.

Over-the-Air Digital TV (OTA DTv)
Television Broadcast Frequencies
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