Do Indoor Antennas Work For Digital TV?

Indoor Digital TV Antenna Sydney

The answer is yes, you can use ‘bunny rabbit’ ear indoor TV antennas to get digital TV reception in Sydney, but only in very limited circumstances.

What Are Indoor TV Antennas?

Indoor TV antennas are simply very small, omnidirectional antennas designed to receive VHF or UHF frequencies, which broadcast TV signals. If you want our deep dive on TV Antennas, feel free to read more detail about outdoor TV antennas here.

But, here’s the catch. You can call almost any metallic object an antenna! With a balun attached to any piece of metal, you can receive some level of radiowaves. You may have even heard the story about getting analogue TV signals by inserting your finger or a coathanger into the back of your TV (the antenna cable input). However, the signal power and signal quality of the signals you are receiving will vary depending on the antenna you have installed. 

Here are a list of bad attributes as to why indoor TV antennas perform very poorly, when compared to typical outdoor antennas:

  • Omnidirectional: they do not ‘point’ towards the TV transmission towers and so are trying to receive signal from every angle. This means they take in a lot of unwanted signals, creating ‘noise’ and a poor quality signal.
  • Single element: they have only one short element (arm) and as a result have very low gain. In essence, this means they will provide a very poor signal power level.
  • No filtering: they do not filter any unwanted signals, like those received from 4G mobile phone towers nearby. This can cause interference and overload your TV tuner, resulting in no picture or audio (or pixelation).
  • Low front to back ratio: given their characteristics, and the fact they are omnidirectinoal, they exhibit low (or no) front to back ratio. They don’t have a front or back. Again, this causes ‘noise’ and unwanted signals resulting in a low quality signal.

Location, Location, Location...

But you said that indoor TV antennas DO work for digital TV, right?

Yes, but only in very limited situations. The lucky people who are located very close to the main TV transmitters in Sydney (ie Artarmon) may be able to get away with using an indoor TV antenna to get their TV channels. This is because the TV signals close to the TV transmitters will be much stronger as compared to locations that are many kilometres away from the transmitter. In addition, the signal will have less objects interrupting the line of sight between the antenna and the TV transmitter.

Click here for a more detailed review on the best indoor TV antenna in Australia.

However, beware that you an still experience signal quality problems even if you are very close to the TV transmitters. Whilst the signal strength will be higher, there is no guarantee that there are no other radiowaves in the area that the indoor TV antenna will pickup and try to send to your TV tuner.

From our experience operating in Sydney for 40+ years, we see and hear from a lot of people who have persisted with an indoor TV antenna for a few weeks or a few months. However, in the end most people usually grow frustrated with indoor TV antennas given the ongoing need to either re-position the antenna, re-tune the TV or simply miss their evening TV show in bad weather.

If you want a reliable, consistent TV antenna that will work in all weather conditions, Nu Life TV Antenna guarantees perfect digital TV reception with all of our installations. So you won’t ever be left with that dreaded “No Signal” message on your digital TV. 

TV Antenna Sydney

TV Antenna Sydney

It should come as no surprise that the most important piece of equipment in any TV antenna system is the TV Antenna itself! In our guide outlining the 10 Steps to Perfect TV Reception in Sydney, it is the first step listed in order for you to get your TV back to picture perfect.

What Frequency Band - VHF, UHF or Combination?

All antennas are ‘cut’ or tuned for different frequencies. You can get antennas that are used for enhancing 3G or 4G mobile phone reception, antennas for FM or DAB radio, GPS antennas and of course TV antennas. Each of those types of signals are all broadcast on different frequencies. 

VHF (very high frequency) bands, which are from 30 to 300 megahertz (MHz), are used for TV signals to be broadcast on the main transmission towers in Sydney, which are located in Artarmon.

UHF (ultra high frequency) bands, which are a large range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz), are also used for TV signals in Sydney, however, these are broadcast (sent) from different transmission towers that are located in hard-to-reach areas. Basically, wherever the main VHF TV signals cannot reach, the Government has kindly organised for new transmissions on other towers to make sure everyone in Sydney can still get a reliable TV signal. The location of these UHF towers in Sydney are as follows:

  • Kings Cross servicing Kings Cross, Sydney CBD and Eastern Suburbs
  • Manly servicing Manly and Mosman
  • Razorback Range servicing South West Sydney
  • Kurrajong Heights servicing the North West Sydney
  • Bouddi servicing Bouddi
  • Woronora servicing Woronora
If you are close to one of these areas, then you might get a better incoming TV signal on UHF rather than VHF frequency bands. This should always be tested onsite, however, the Australian Government’s MySwitch website may provide some assistance in determining what is right for you.

From there it is simple, if the best TV signal in your local area is broadcast on VHF frequencies, buy a VHF antenna. If the best signal is on UHF frequencies, buy a UHF antenna.

Oh and just to cover them off, combination antennas are antennas that receive both VHF and UHF frequencies. They are often used by installers who do not know how TV signals work and so they can be used in a wider range of situations to ‘guess’ which direction the signal comes from. There are only a few rare scenarios in which a combination TV antenna should be used, and quite often they result in a poor quality signal, can introduce interference into your TV antenna system and cause other issues. Overall, they are more harm than good. 

Low Gain or High Gain?

A TV Antennas ‘gain’ or ‘power gain’ describes how well the antenna converts radio waves arriving from a specified direction into electrical power. This is very important to introduce a strong signal power straight off the antenna. Sometimes, if a high gain antenna is used over a low gain antenna, there can be enough signal power straight off the antenna to avoid needing to install other devices, like a TV Antenna Booster or other amplification devices.

It is often the case that antennas with only very few elements (arms) will be low gain, and high gain antennas will have many elements (up to 18 elements for a very high gain VHF antenna). A top quality high gain antenna should deliver you a minimum of 10db gain (on VHF) and some will get you 14db gain or greater!

UHF Antennas - Yagi or Phased Array?

UHF Antennas generally come in 2 shapes, being a Yagi or Phased Array. A yagi is the more traditional long, narrow antenna (used for VHF antennas), whilst a phased array TV antenna looks like a square mesh board with diagonal metal patterns.

A yagi antenna should be your go-to UHF antenna under normal circumstances. It will provide higher gain and a better quality signal under circumstances where your line of sight (LOS) to the transmission tower is relatively clear.

If the LOS from your rooftop to the transmission tower is terrible, and there are a lot of hills and valleys along the way, then your best bet may be to install a UHF phased array TV antenna. These antennas are better at picking up ‘scattered’ signals which become scattered due to the radio waves bouncing off hills, trees, bushes, and other objects before they get to your rooftop. Phased array antennas are a higher cost antenna than yagi antennas, so you are best to have a signal survey from your rooftop to determine which is the best in your local area.

Front to Back Ratio

The Front to Back Ratio of any antenna is the ratio of the signal power received from the front of the antenna compared to the signal power received in the opposite direction.

Whilst some may not look like it, antennas have a front and a back and it is crucially important that you do not turn them around 180 degrees to have them facing the opposite direction. However, if you were to do so, and you had a bad antenna with a low front to back ratio, there is a very slim chance it might still work for you! 

However, the best TV antennas will have a high front to back ratio, and this is why. If an antenna can receive a signal from the wrong direction, it will introduce ‘noise’ and unwanted signals into your TV antenna system. Because we know that we only want signal coming from the TV transmission tower, we ideally want to completely block out as much other noise as possible. A high front to back ratio will mean that we get lots of good TV signal from the front, and minimal unwanted radiowaves from the back.

Built-in Filters

Depending on your location and proximity to telecommunications towers, you may suffer from strong 4G (LTE) mobile phone signals in your area. Whilst this might be great for making mobile phone calls and watching 4K movies on your iPhone, unfortunately, this can result in interference to your TV antenna signals.

There are a number of stages in which you can ‘filter’ out the unwanted 4G signals. You can have an in-line 4G filter (separate device), a 4G filter built in to your TV antenna booster, or you can eliminate the 4G signal at the source and buy an antenna that has a 4G filter built-in. Note that in some cases, you may require more than one device to filter the 4G signal as it can be very strong in some areas and cause a lot of interference issues for your TV signal.

In summary, there are a number of different attributes that you should look out for when selecting a TV antenna in Sydney. No matter which attributes you decide, there is also the build quality that you should definitely take into account. Australian made TV antennas are generally made out of higher grade aluminium, as compared to some international antennas, and have a more rigid construction. You can rest assured knowing that they are designed and made for Australian frequencies and Australia’s harsh and varying climate. It’s for this reason that many Aussie made antennas come with a 25 year warranty… they are built to last!