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Freeview reception - all about aerials

Your ability to receive all the Freeview transmissions depends on the suitability of aerial: the design style, "group" and its physical location.

Your ability to receive all the Freeview transmissions depends
published on UK Free TV

Updated 8th January 2014.

Your ability of receive all the Freeview transmissions depends on the suitability of aerial

  • the design style,
  • the "group", and
  • its physical location.

Standard type - Yagi aerial

The standard type of TV aerial is known as the Yagi aerial. It is mounted on a pole, and consists of a rod with a reflector (shown green) at the back and many spiky elements (in grey) at the front. The connecting cable connects to the element nearest the reflector, known as the driver (shown in blue).

These Yagi aerials are directional and so pick up signals best from a transmitter that the rod points towards. The more elements the aerial has, the better it picks up a signal and becomes more directional.

A standard-type aerial is all that is required for digital TV reception in most places. These antennae have between 10 and 18 elements and a single reflector. These are recommended for new installations for good digital television reception, but will more often than not function perfectly in good reception areas.

Typically these aerials are designed to receive only some transmission frequencies - see "groups" below.

High Gain aerials

These aerials are designed for poor digital reception areas, and have two reflectors. For maximum signal strength, some digital high gain aerials have up to 100 elements. Since the switchover to digital-only transmissions back in October 2012, most UK households now have good quality digital TV signals.

A more expensive aerial is only required where the signal strength is low, but can often provide the whole Freeview reception where it might otherwise be impossible.

The CAI (that represents aerial installers) has four standards for digital TV aerials. The highest standard "1" is for homes on the fringes of coverage areas, intermediate standard "2" is suitable for use within the coverage area; minimum standard "3" is for good coverage conditions.

These aerials can be either wideband, or receive only selected frequencies - see "groups" below.


You may haved used a 'Grid aerial' for analogue reception, but as they are generally unsuitable for Freeview reception, they have now generally been replaced by the Yagi type. However in some places a Grid aerial installation may work for Freeview: otherwise replace with a standard Yagi aerial.


Indoor aerials are generally not suitable for Freeview reception. In areas of good signal strength it is often possible to receive some transmissions. Even where an aerial works, people often find that may get interruptions to their viewing (or recording).

Loft mounted

Loft mounted arrivals are not generally recommended for Freeview reception, as the roof tiles and plumbing will degrade the signal. Some compensation for this loss of signal can be made by using satellite-grade cable to connect the set top box to the aerial.


The best position for a TV aerial is mounted outdoors, as high from the ground as possible, pointing directly at the transmitter. The signal can be blocked by hills and tall buildings. It should be positioned away from any other aerials.

Horizontal or vertical?

The transmitter will either use vertical mode which requires the elements of your aerial to be up-down, or horizontal mode which requires them to be level with the ground.


Both analogue and digital television is transmitted the same group of transmission frequencies (known as channel 21 through to 60). A coloured marking on the aerial shows the group.

To create the best possible analogue picture, TV transmissions from adjacent transmitters have been designated to several different groups of frequencies. By using an aerial that receives only the channels in the correct group, the analogue picture can be kept free from interference.

To receive Freeview transmissions from the same transmitter it has been sometimes necessary to use frequencies that are not part of the transmitter's normal group. When this has occurred, the aerial will need to be replaced with a "wideband" aerial (also known as group W) - one that covers every group.

As Ofcom is planning to move the TV frequencies again - perhaps as soon as 2018 - it may be wise to use a wideband aerial if you can to ensure you can keep viewing Freeview for many years to come.

Help with Television sets?
Why are all TVs on sale not digital?1
Do I still have to pay for a TV licence?2
I had perfect channel 5 reception - until I got a digital TV box!3
I Have a Pocket Tv For taking out so I can keep up with news and sport. Will thi4
The pictures from my digital box are all green!5
In this section
Loft aerials1
Do I need to buy a booster?2
How to receive Freeview on your PC3
Indoor aerials4
Whole house digital TV5
Connecting it all up6

Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Dave Lindsay

4:56 PM

Peter Thornton: See TV Aerials for Boats and Caravans (LL115FQ)

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

5:18 PM

Jon Stanley: Assuming that you are receiving from Mendip, then wait until 28th March when Arqiva B multiplex which carries Sky Sports will go to full power.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Peter Thornton
6:17 PM

Peter Thornton: Thank you Dave Lindsay. A very useful link. Gave me all the info I was looking for. Thank You. (51.3633,-1.9654) 

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Peter Thornton's 3 posts GB flag
Monday, 19 March 2012
Frank Sanjana
2:22 AM

I live in Basingstoke (RG24) and since the analogue change-over in Feb-12, I am not receiving all the Freeview channels I always used to from my external aerial despite retuning. Missing channels include Yesterday, Film4, RT (Russia Today) & Al Jareeza. Also SkyNews & Food appear & disappear at times after retuning. Has there been some change at the transmitter end or something else? Pls advise. TIA!

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Frank Sanjana's 1 post GB flag
Dave Lindsay

11:19 AM

Frank Sanjana: I'm assuming that you're receiving from Hannington. If so, then the Commercial channels will remain on low power until 4th April for SDN (which carries ITV3 and others) and until 18th April for ArqA and ArqB which carry Pick TV, Yesterday, Dave, Film4, Sky News and others.

The missing channels you identify are all on ArqB multiplex and you need to try manually tuning to C47 for them.

If you have a signal booster, you should try removing it.

You may be able to get all channels to work, or perhaps at least get Sky News and Food (ArqA) to be more solid by putting an attenuator on line with your aerial lead. I am referring to a device such as this:

The issue could be that there are now high power digital signals BBC and ITV1 etc when there wasn't before. These could be acting to desensitise your receiver and in so doing it doesn't "see" the lower power channels you're having problems with.

The attenuator will reduce the level of all signals. A variable one such as the example I've given will allow the level of reduction of signals to be varied so as to see if a happy medium where all will work can be arrived at.

So basically the hope is that the level of the high power signals can be reduced sufficiently (to increase the sensitivity of the receiver) *and* that the degree of attentuation does not reduce the level of the weaker signals too much so as to not be receivable.

There is therefore no guarantee that a balance can be struck.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Saturday, 24 March 2012
Steve P

11:49 AM

Don - Are you sure that is what you wanted to say?

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Steve P's 1,173 posts GB flag
9:16 PM

Hi all,
I live in postcode BH21 2a and recieve signal from the Rowridge transmitter.
Since switch over I am getting a good BBC, ITV signal (above average) but very poor COM 5 reception. Any ideas? May this improve after the final switchover mid April.

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Richard's 6 posts GB flag
9:38 PM

Sorry, re my post below, I have a 9 element Group A aeriel, I was advised not to use a wideband in my aera, is this good advice.

Hi all,
I live in postcode BH21 2a and recieve signal from the Rowridge transmitter.
Since switch over I am getting a good BBC, ITV signal (above average) but very poor COM 5 reception. Any ideas? May this improve after the final switchover mid April.

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Richard's 6 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

9:52 PM

Richard: Yes, a Group A aerial perfectly fine with Rowridge.

COM5 is on channel 37 (offset upwards) and C37 is the top of Group A.

Rowridge will be transmitting all six multiplexes horizontally and vertically after 18th April.

The PSBs are 200kW in both horizontal and vertical planes (and they are that now). The COMs will be 50kW horizontally and 200kW vertically. The vertical component of the COMs will not be introduced until 18th April, on which date you may get better reception by changing your aerial to vertical polarisation.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
10:07 PM

Thanks for that but does this explain why Pick, Dave etc is so weak while BBC, ITV is good. I have tried a manual tune on channel 37 but just a broken or no picture. I had no problems until analogue signal went
Do you think it may be the BBC signal is too strong although it was always pretty weak with analogue?

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Richard's 6 posts GB flag
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