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OTA DTv

Over the Air Digital TV
and How to Get it
OTA DTv

How It Works | Digital Television's | Antenna's | Site Calculators
Typical Tower Map

Get free TV with just an antenna. Pickup major networks, local stations, and a growing number of entertainment channels. Over 100 TV channels are available near large city's, over 70 channels near mid size city's, and over 30 channels near small city's (top 200 market cities). The number of Over the Air networks keeps on growing.

How Over-the-Air TV Works

A TV broadcast station will typically transmit a 3 to 1000 kilowatt (kW) signal over the air (OTA) from a broadcast tower antenna typically mounted 300 to 2000 feet above the ground. Broadcast towers are often concentrated within a 10 mile radius near or in a city. Coverage range varies from around 30 miles or more for low power stations, to over 80 miles for full power stations. A station will transmit on an FCC licensed RF channel in either the VHF or UHF Frequency Band. Each RF channel contains 1 to 18 TV channels (networks). Some towers have multiple antennas to broadcast multiple stations (RF channels).

kW
OTA
RF
FCC
-
-
-
-
kilowatts (1000 watts)
Over-the-Air
Radio Frequency
Federal Communication Commission

BROADCAST TOWER
TV Broadcast Tower
OTA DTv - is FREE
You need - an Antenna
- a Digital Television
- or tuner / viewing device
Get - Major Networks
- Local TV Stations
- Entertainment Channels
Resolution - Ultra High Definition (UHD /4k TV)
- High Definition (HD)
- Standard Definition (SD)
Audio - Multi Channel Surround Sound
- Stereo
- Mono
Data - Program Guide
- TV Channel, Callsign, Network
- Closed Caption (CC)
Internet Connection NOT Required

Most RF channels broadcast an HD signal (ATSC 1.0 standard), a growing number of stations broadcast a UHD signal (ATSC 3.0). A 4k UHD television is needed to receive a UHD signal. Most stations that broadcast a UHD signal also simulcast an HD signal for high definition televisions. The simulcast is on a different RF channel and may be from a different broadcast tower. Eventually all stations will broadcast a UHD signal.

The number of UHD stations is growing but still small. In 2021 there were 49 cities (31 states) with 1 or more UHD broadcast station. UHD broadcasters totaled 70 stations and 246 TV channels. Small compared to 500 market cities, over 7500 stations, and tens of thousands of TV channels.

Digital Televisions
HD TV's 4k UHD TV's

Most Digital Televisions have a Digital Tuner for receiving OTA broadcast. These television's will have a coax connector labeled " RF In" or " Antenna". High Definition televisions have an ATSC (1.0) tuner. The 4k UHD, also called NextGen, TV's also have an ATSC 3.0 tuner.

TELEVISIONs HD TV's 4k UHD TV's
TV Tuner ATSC ATSC / ATSC 3.0
Resolution HD, SD UHD, HD, SD

SD
HD
UHD
-- RESOLUTIONs
-- Standard Definition
-- High Definition
-- Ultra High Definition (4k)
PIXELS / INCH
480
720 or 1080
2160

Ultra High Definition has 2 to 3 times higher resolution and enhanced audio compared to High Definition. UHD TV's can use an optional Internet connection for streaming additional content and video in real time. This also allows broadcasters to know what you're watching and when. The ATSC 3.0 standard (4k UHD NextGen TV) was designed for large screens and full audio systems. A 4k TV with a screen size less than about 40 inches diagonal will not see much if any difference between a UHD and HD picture. Also see Digital Television's.

DIGITAL TUNERS and CONVERTERS
Set Top Digital Tuners are available to connect to your computer / network, or monitor. Analog TV's need a Digital to Analog Converter to receive OTA broadcast. See Tuners and Converters.

Test Pattern
Picture Quality

OVER-THE-AIR
Digital TV receives a perfect picture or no picture. There is virtually no or very little in between for weak signals. A signal that is weak but above the TV minimum has the same picture as a strong signal. Signal power just below the television's minimum the picture starts to pixilate, and quickly gets worse as the signal decreases. Just a few decibels (dB's) below the minimum the picture disappears. See TV Minimum Signal page.

COMPARED TO CABLE
Picture resolution is as good as or better than cable or satellite TV. Cable and satellite operators often compress local channels before re-broadcasting. The compression reduces picture quality. Compressing signals opens up more bandwidth and allows providers to squeeze in more channels nobody watches.

Sponsored links

DTv Channels
63-5
Network
RF 36
Over Air
TV & RF Channels

The early Analog TV stations (1947 to 2009) used their FCC license RF Channel number as their Station TV channel. One TV channel per RF channel. Digital broadcast can contain multiple TV channels in one RF channel and use 2 numbers for TV channel (Station channel - Sub channel (network)), and another number for broadcast RF channel.

Over the Air TV has 2 types of channels, displayed channel and broadcast channel.

TV Channel Displayed
63-2
Main Channel - Sub Channel
-- MAIN: Station Channel
-- SUB : 1 to 18 (Networks)
• Also called Virtual Channel
RF Channel
36
Broadcast Channel
- FCC allocates RF 2 to 51
• HD/SD or UHD signal
• Carries multiple sub channels

TV CHANNEL
The TV channel Main number may or may not (probably not) be the same as the RF channel number. During the transition from analog to digital most stations changed their RF channel but kept their old analog channel number as their station TV channel.

RF CHANNEL
A VHF antenna is needed to get RF channels 2 to 13. A UHF antenna is needed to get RF channels 14 and above. See TV Frequency Bands below, and TV Station Callsigns.

Antenna's

FREQUENCY BANDS
TV broadcast are in the VHF and UHF frequency bands. Virtually all home antenna's are designed to receive UHF signals. Many antennas get both UHF and VHF signals. In some cases a UHF antenna will receive a VHF signal at reduced power, but still strong enough for reception.

TV Frequency Bands
Band RF Ch's Frequency
VHF 02 - 13 54 - 216 MHz
UHF 14 - 51 470 - 698 MHz
VHF-Lo
VHF-Hi
RF 2 - 6
RF 7-13
54 - 88 MHz
174-216 MHz
Also see

ANTENNA RANGE
Your location (from towers) and antenna are the main factors that determine the broadcast tower range you can get a signal. The larger the antenna the more signal captured (gain). The higher the antenna is mounted the greater the signal density.

Reception Range
Antenna Range
Indoor 20 - 25 miles
Outdoor
-- attic mount
-- roof mount
30 - 60 miles
60 - 85 miles
Also see;

ANTENNA DIRECTION

Tower Locator

Your antenna should be pointed in the general direction of the broadcast towers, and have a relatively clear path to the towers. TV signals are Line-of-Sight, large obstructions (hills, buildings, trees) can reduce or block reception.

Find Angle and Range to
Towers for Your Location
TV BROADCAST TOWER LOCATOR
Also see;
otadtv.com

OUTDOOR TV ANTENNA RESTRICTIONS PROHIBITED
Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (FCC Website)

FCC Rule 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000
Prohibits Restrictions
that impair Outdoor TV Antenna's

Use,
Installation,
Maintenance.
Applies to:
State, Local Laws, Regulations
-- includes Zoning, Land-Use, Building Regulations
Condominium Restrictions
Cooperative Association Restrictions
Lease Restrictions
-- drilling holes etc can be restricted.
• Similar Restrictions

Masts higher than 12 feet above the roofline may be subject to local permitting requirements for safety purposes.

Sponsored links

Site Calculators
TV Antenna's and Accessories.
2017 Spectrum Auction Results.
St Louis area TV Stations.


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