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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 18:27 GMT
Digital TV: The options
Four out of 10 households in the UK had digital television before the collapse of ITV Digital.
As new service Freeview launches BBC News Online details the three key ways to receive digital television in the UK.


Digital cable

Access to digital cable TV depends on where you live in the UK - not all of the country has access to cable services.

To receive digital cable TV you need to subscribe to a supplier even if you only want BBC and other free-to-view channels. You might also pay an installation charge.

Subscription includes a telephone service as well as rental of the cable connection and equipment.

Subscriptions on some networks start from around 15 - 20 per month.

Prices vary depending on which extra channels you want and there is access to more than 100 subscription services.

Main suppliers
NTL offer a Base pack for 20 (including telephone line rental) a month which offers more than 30 digital channels including the Studio and British Eurosport as well as over 20 digital radio channels.

NTL currently reaches more than eight million homes and has 2.69 million subscribers.

Telewest Broadband offers a Standard Package, with more than 24 channels, and a phone line for 15 a month. Channels include ITV2 and Sky Sports News.

Its cable network passes 4.9m homes and the firm has more than 1.3m TV customers.


Digital satellite

If you subscribe to Sky Digital there are more than 200 different services available and the equipment is either subsidised or free.

You do not have to subscribe but buying and installing the equipment then costs about 250.

There are about 78 channels available without a subscription, as well as 59 radio stations.

Digital satellite covers almost the whole country and if you just want the BBC and other free channels without subscribing, you need a free viewing card for your digibox. The number to call is 0870 243 8000.

Supplier
Sky Digital offers a basic package, offering about 14 TV channels, which costs 10 a month. Installation costs 100.

The service has attracted more than 5.9 million customers in the UK and Ireland.


Digital terrestrial
Following the collapse of ITV Digital, the BBC together with consortium partner Crown Castle won the franchise to deliver digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Unlike ITV Digital, Freeview is completely free of charge - but it does require a DTT decoder, which costs from 99, or you can buy an integrated digital set.

Freeview signals cover almost three-quarters of the UK population and you get more than 30 extra free television and radio channels including your existing five services.

You get all the BBC's digital TV and radio services, which are included in your licence fee.

You need a good quality rooftop aerial and there are no further equipment costs unless you need a new aerial.



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