About 80% of the population of Ireland has access to digital TV but according to the Irish communication regulator’s latest market report only 12% “have an Irish DTT service.” As bad as this sounds it could mean that viewers in the Republic, as well as the North, who upgrade now get a better service than those who have already upgraded.
At the end of October on the island of Ireland there will be three DTT systems – the UK’s Freeview, Freeview+HD, and the Irish Saorview – all of which use different technologies to encode/decode TV transmissions.
Consumers that buy Saorview-ready equipment will be able to pick up Freeview transmissions but consumers that have Freeview-ready equipment will not be able to view Saorview.
On the analogue system, which will no longer work after October 24, viewers in the Republic were able to pick up analogue overspill from Ulster (as well as Wales in some spots) and Ulster viewers could pick up transmission from the Republic.
The reason why the slow adoption rate of either Freeview or Saorview could benefit the consumer is because the confusion over which systems work with which technologies has largely been sorted.
The confusing part
If you own a Freeview decoder you will not be able to receive Saorview (there are some exceptions, so it’s best to test your system), if you own a Saorview decoder you will likely be able to receive Freeview. But if you own a Freeview+HD box (or a device with a DVB-T2 tuner) you will be able to receive both Freeview and Saorview (depending on your location etc).
Here’s what Saorview says for viewers in the Republic who currently receive UK analogue channels
“The analogue signal is being switched off on 24 October in both ROI and NI. If you currently receive the analogue UK services through an aerial because of signal overspill, you will most likely continue to receive those channels even after the switch to digital. When you switch to Saorview, you will more than likely pick up the UK digital service named Freeview on your Saorview set top box or Saorview TV set.”
For viewers in Ulster who currently receive Irish channels Saorview’s website says you will be able to get channels from the Republic if you have a Freeview+HD decoder;
“Saorview coverage in NI will closely resemble the analogue overspill. To receive Saorview , you will still need your aerial, and also a set top box or TV set capable of receiving Saorview. A Freeview+HD box or TV will more than likely work for Saorview, but a Freeview box or TV more than likely will not work. Any set top box or TV set branded as Saorview approved will be fully compatible with the Saorview service.”
Now’s the chance to upgrade
For consumers that haven’t upgraded their system to either Freeview or Saorview now is the chance to do so. The Northern Irish switch over to Freeview will begin on October 10 and end on October 24 (the same date as the Irish switch analogue off).
So, after October 10 consumers in the Republic and in Ulster will be able to see if they can pick up Saorview and Freeview signals from Ulster transmitters. The delay also allows consumers to pick up more modern decoders which offer advanced, Sky+ style features, such as live TV recoding, wireless access, and more spacious internal hard drives.
Currently on the market Samsung Ireland says that many of its older TVs can receive Freeview in Ireland and that its latest models are set up for the service. If you don’t want to buy a new television there are other options. Set-top boxes and digital decoders are available in many devices, such as Bluray players which come with Freeview HD decoders installed.
We will just have to wait until after October 10 to see how far south Freeview+HD from Northern Ireland will be available and how far north Saorview will be available.