Freeview signals: too much of a good thing is bad for you
Most people will experience nothing but simplicity and joy with the digital switchover - the process that turns off the old five high power analogue signals, and the existing six low power digital services and replaces them with six new high power Freeview multiplexes.
For those with problems, there are generally three issues.
Eliminating other possible problems firstThe first is that very, very old equipment will not function with the digital signals split into 6,817 sub-signals, as it was only designed to work with 1,705 sub-signals. This is known as the "8k mode issue" - see TVs and boxes that do not support the 8k
It is also common that people do not clear out the old channel list (by selecting "first time installation" retune, "Factory Reset" or "Shipping Condition") before doing an "autoscan" for the available broadcast frequencies, and this results in everything from missing channels to no subtitles, programme guide, wrong channel numbers and no text services. If you can't find how to do it see either Freeview Retune - list of manuals or do it this way: My Freeview box has no EPG, is blank, has no sound or the channel line up is wrong .
A third problem is caused by having signals from more than one transmitter - see Digital Region Overlap.
The final very common issue is "too much signal".
Transmitters have much more digital power after switchoverAt most transmitters, the digital signals after switchover are considerably more powerful than before. This was because when the analogue and digital services ran together, the digital services were kept low to prevent appearing as snowy interference on television sets using analogue reception.
Here is an example, from Sutton Coldfield, of how the signals change at switchover:
4,000kW of analogue signals are turned off, and the digital services increase in total power from 48kW to 1,200kW - that is an increase of 25 times in numerical terms, also know as +14dB. (The reduction of -7dB from the analogue strength is intended - the digital services require less power to cover the same number of homes).
This large increase in power should cause no effect for most people. A stronger signal does not increase the picture quality (you need Freeview HD for that), sound levels - the only effect should be that more homes that are further away from the transmitter mast can receive a stable digital signal.
High gain aerials and signal boostersHowever, many people have been tempted into buying one both high gain aerials and signal boosters.
High-gain aerials were very suitable for places where the Freeview signal before switchover was very weak indeed, but if you have one of these and you are located closer to the transmitter, you will probably now have a signal overload.
Generally speaking, signal booster devices are never really much use for Freeview reception, and much of the time they actually amplify the interference more than they do the signal, causing reception to get worse, not better.
How to tell if you have too much signalThere are almost as many ways for a Freeview box to display the "signal strength" and "signal quality" as there are types of Freeview box. Here are some of them:
Speaking generally, there will be two indicators:
One is signal strength - this shows the power level of the signal entering the Freeview box. Often "0" is the lowest and "10" the highest, but sometimes it can be a percentage, sometimes coloured boxes and so on.
The signal strength should be around 75% - more than this indicates too much signal.
The other measure is the signal quality and this is much more important to high-quality Freeview viewing. Any measures that increase this to the maximum will provide for uninterrupted viewing, lower values will result in "bit errors" that cause the picture to freeze and the sound to mute out.
One problem with over powerful signals is the overload can sometimes show as a low signal because the receiver circuitry will enter a "blown fuse" state to protect itself.
How to deal with too much signalFirst, if you have a booster or amplifier - remove it from your system. Don't just unplug the power, as this will result in no signal getting though the device.
If you can't just disconnect the output cable and connect it to the input cable, you might need a coax female-female coupler to connect two male connectors together.
If you don't have a booster or amplifier, you might have to fit an attenuator onto the cable. They come in two types, either a "single attenuator", around five pounds, or a variable attenuator, for around ten pounds. The variable sort has a knob that can be turned to select the required level of signal dampening.
Excessive signal is unlikely to cause internal damage to your Freeview equipment unless it is at a signal level of several volts! It is usually a few millivolts. However, excessive signal will overload the tuner so it cannot work properly and will give either no reception al all of else all the pictures will break up (pixilation). You ideally need a signal strength shown on your TV of between 60% and 85%,
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