What is Cable DTV?

You flip on the TV and an image shows up on the screen, but how exactly does it get there? The answer is “digitally,” at least since 2009. To transmit a digital television (DTV) signal, TV broadcasters compress the audio/video data via binary code, the same system that computers and digitally recorded CDs use.

Television providers offer DTV technology through different methods such as fiber, satellite and cable. And while, at first, the original transition from analog to digital television represented an inconvenience for cable companies and many viewers, the move was well worth it. Digital cable television technology revolutionized the way we experience TV.

Why did cable switch to digital broadcasts?

David Rehr, former CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, dubbed digital television “the most significant advancement of television technology since the advent of color TV.” That may sound like a bold statement, but digital television has similarly heightened our TV experience with a number of benefits.

Benefits of digital television

Less bandwidth required for broadcasts

In many cases, companies can fit approximately 10 digital SD channels or two digital HD channels on one analog channel frequency. Therefore, DTV enables TV providers to offer subscribers more channels with the same amount of bandwidth.

HD capabilities

DTV transmits an image that has five times the picture resolution and clarity of analog television. In fact, digital television gave rise to standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) TV, delighting viewers with a sharper, crisper display quality.

More robust sound

Like your video feed, your audio feed is much better with digital television. The clearer, more distinguishable sounds that come with DTV make for a more immersive entertainment experience.

Cable Internet/home phone possibilities

Broadband Internet and digital home phone use digital cable equipment and technology. Your TV, Internet and home phone could all come in on the same wire, giving cable companies a cost-effective way to offer multiple home services, also called bundles.

What do you need to watch digital TV?

If you’re in the market for or have recently bought a new TV, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to watching digital TV. Newer television sets come equipped with a cable system that includes a digital television tuner. Though, if you want to watch high-definition digital broadcasts, you will need a television equipped to display HD as well as an HDMI cable to connect to your cable or satellite TV box.

To receive cable DTV on an older model TV not equipped for digital signal, you will need a digital TV adapter. This will transfer the digital signal back to the analog signal your TV is equipped to display.

Digital adapters are available for purchase online and from most electronic stores, or you can likely obtain one from your cable TV service. Using an adapter will allow you to get some digital television broadcasts, but select channels such as premium channels and pay-per-views titles are not available.

The future of digital television

With digital television came picture quality unparalleled to what we saw with analog television. Digital TV also opened the door for high-definition programming, with “Ultra-HD”, or 4K, TV technology, now delivering four times the pixels of HD TV.

Digital TV’s powerful versatility will undoubtedly continue to evolve the way we watch TV. Advances in virtual and augmented reality TV broadcasts in the not-so-distant future will likely be made possible thanks to the advent of DTV.


Last Updated: 9/16/2017