TV reception in Australia has undergone a huge upgrade over the last decade. Starting on 30 June 2010, analogue TV transmissions from TV towers across the country started getting turned off. At the same time, digital TV transmissions were being broadcast and now gave almost all houses in Australia access to Digital TV.
Without going into all the benefits of Digital TV, we now have the ability to view higher quality transmissions and much more content in the way of more channels that are available using the same spectrum (RF frequencies).
This upgrade to digital was a time-consuming, and sometimes difficult task. Buildings were required to be re-wired, MATV headends needed to be upgraded and in some instances new antennas or set top boxes needed to be installed to ensure a reliable digital picture and audio was received on TVs.
Many aged care centers, hospitals, hotels, pubs and clubs had other services also broadcast on analogue transmission. Some of these services include Foxtel channels, in-house broadcasts, digital signage, projector screens, radio channels, CCTV cameras, and more. To this day, we still see many analogue modulators in use, yet to be upgraded to digital.
If you are considering upgrading to digital modulators, find out more information below.
Why Upgrade From Analogue to Digital Modulators
The main reasons you would want o upgrade from analogue to digital modulators are as follows:
- Better picture and audio quality
- More reliable reception
- No need to switch input sources from ‘Digital TV’ tuner to ‘Analogue TV’ tuner
- Digital TVs may not have an ‘Analogue TV’ tuner
In other circumstances, a digital modulator will provide a better end user experience. From removing ‘static’ or ‘shadowing’ caused by poor reception performance and balancing, through to not having to use your remote to change input sources from digital to analogue so you can view Fox Sports. Digital modulators provide a better end user experience and a more reliable reception performance.
How Many Input Sources Do You Need?
Digital modulators come in many different shapes and sizes. You can get rack mountable modulators, base units with multiple cards to add more services as you expand, and you can get ones that just sit on top of a shelf.
Generally speaking, quad input modulators are rack mountable and as the name suggests, they support modulating 4x services throughout your MATV system. There are also single input modulators, and the more rare 8-input modulators. Beware that 8-input modulators are sometimes more expensive than 2x 4-input modulators, simply due to the fact that manufacturers and suppliers can move a higher quantity of quad input modulators.
In case you want to add more services at a later date, sometimes it is beneficial and more cost effective to get an extra input source in your modulator, so you are setup for the future.
SD, HD or 4K - Check Your Input Source
Modulators also come in High Definition (HD) or Standard Definition (SD). You will want to match the modulator quality with the quality of your input source. There is no point installing a HD modulator to distribute SD Foxtel services. The modulators do not usually include any sort of ‘upscaling’ technology, so you are limited by your input source in this instance.
In order to check your input sources, if you are getting RCA connectors coming out of your input source (for example, your Foxtel box), this is typically an indication that you are inputting Composite Video Baseband Signal (CVBS). Composite video is a video signal format that carries standard-definition video only (480i or 576i resolution). In this case you can stick to an SD modulators.
However, if you are getting your signal from a HDMI cable, then there is a high likelihood that your setup is able to distribute HD signal. After all, HDMI stands for High-definition Multimedia Interface.
It was not always the case, however, these days there is very little difference in the way of pricing between SD or HD modulators. So, if you can afford the little bit extra, we would probably suggest the HD modulators.
Finally, the latest modulators on the market are able to distribute 4K signals. 4K signals are even better quality than HD, with resolutions usually shown as “3840 x 2160” on 4K TVs. 4K modulators are at a higher price point than SD or HD modulators, however, in the right circumstances, they can give a very sharp picture quality for pubs and clubs that want to broadcast sports on large screens or projectors.
MPEG2 or MPEG4?
MPEG stands for Moving Pictures Experts Group. They are the body responsible for the standards used for video encoding. TVs will be either MPEG2 or MPEG4 compatible. Thankfully most new TVs sold today are MPEG4 compatible, however, some older TVs are still MPEG2 only, which can cause us issues when using modulators.
If a TV is MPEG2 only, then it will not be able to process an MPEG4 video signal. However, if a TV is MPEG4, it is generally ‘backwards compatible’ and so will be able to process an MPEG2 signal. As a result, if you are upgrading an existing site with many TVs and you do not know each and every model of TV, then we would recommend installing an MPEG2 modulator. It is the safe option.
Foxtel Approved Modulators
Given that many modulators are used to distribute Foxtel channels to multiple TVs in a TV system, Foxtel’s technical team have looked into the modulators on the market and given a number of them their stamp of approval. As a result, there are only handful of modulators in the market that are ‘Foxtel Approved’.
When using modulators to distribute Foxtel services, if possible, it is recommended to use Foxtel Approved modulators to ensure complete compatibility and seamless integration.
Digital modulators are very affordable in this day and age, and there are often very cost effective solutions to get your analogue modulators upgraded to digital. For a high quality digital quad input modulator, expect prices to start from around $2,000 (including parts, installation and commissioning). If you are getting multiple quad input modulators installed, then the pricing can become even more attractive.
There are many different brands of digital modulators, including Zycast, Kingray, Terra, Hills, Resilinx, Fracarro, and more. Each have their own benefits and can be used in specific use cases.
When upgrading from analogue to digital modulators, we would also encourage customers to enlist the services of their experienced MATV installation. There are many areas that can go wrong when performing such an upgrade and an experienced MATV company like Nu Life TV Antenna will be able to ensure you get it right the first time, with minimal downtime to end users.