Digital TV, the replacement of analog TV, is slowly gaining popularity in Europe. It's known as DVB-T, Freeview or TNT. For those who travel, it's easy to pick up the signal and watch local television on a laptop. The ingredients for DVB-T television are simple, however there are a few things worth mentioning.
Digital Television standards
As usual with new technology, there is more than 1 standard. In Europe and Australia it's DVB-T, in the US it's called ATSC. There are more standards, such as for china and south America but that's about it. Dominant are DVB-T and ATSC. In France DVB-T is called TNT. Read about free local TV in Spain called TDT or Free Digital TV in Portugal called TDT.
The DVB logo on a chip made by DiBcom - The chip is used in a Pinnacle PCTV USB stick
Digital TV transmitters
DVB-T is equivalent to high quality TV - however one should be well in reach of the transmitter. A big difference with analogue TV is poor DVB-T performance when signal reception is average or less. Image and sound get distorted easily, specially when using the HD (High Definition) variant. Analogue TV has better performance under difficult conditions, it's image fades with white noise and sound stays longer.
It also takes more power to transmit a DVB-T signal. Nonetheless the equipment needed to receive a DVB-T signal is simple, cheap and small - it fits a USB stick / adapter.
Pinnacle PCTV DVB-T USB stick - adapter
A second hand Pinnacle PCTV DVB-T (72e) USB stick is installed on a DELL Latitude D610 with Windows XP SP3. The DVB-T stick was tested within reach of a transmitter and worked instantly. The TVCenter Pro software is moderately CPU intensive, however the PCTV stick heats up quite a bit. Power consumption is above average - so that's something to be aware of when using DVB-T.
DVB-T antenna to watch TV on a laptop
DVB-T signal reception requires an approximately 5 cm long omni-directional antenna connected the other end of the DVB-T USB adapter.The best location of the DVB-T antenna is outdoor at the highest position possible. Other antenna's with better gain are also available.
Read about High Speed 3G Prepaid Internet in France.
DVB-T in France - called TNT.
DVB-T in France is called TNT (Télévision Numérique Terrestre) and is operational since 2007. The analogue variant is planned to be switched of in 2011. So let's have a look how it performs. A few tests in the north-east quickly made one thing clear - TNT has poor coverage in the country side. One needs to be in or near a city to receive the DVB-T signal. A high quality signal was first received in Le Puy en Velay - at a distance of about 1,5 Km from the transmitter on Mont Denise. The HD signal of Arte was poor at this close distance - however work was in progress at the antenna at the time of testing.
All information about DVB-T TNT in France is available through the TNT website.
Free to air - Freeview DVB-T digital TV in France
In the Haute-Loire region in France during November 2009 the following DVB-T / TNT channels are available. Not all are free, like Canal+, Eurosport and Paris Premier are encrypted.