New TV transmission standard: The DVB-T2 transition in Italy

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February 20, 2022

In short, to watch TV in Italy starting in 2023, unless you bought a TV with a built-in DVB-T2 compatible decoder, you will need to obtain a new decoder. Why the change?

By now, following a mandate of all European Union member nations to make the shift to digital broadcasting, in Italy, all the active TV viewers have DVB-T in order to receive digital terrestrial transmission on their televisions. The old analog signal has been phases out and some of the radio bands repurposed. The first phase of the digital terrestrial broadcasting transition originated in 2008 with the conclusion in 2012.

Now a decade later, a new mandate has been in the making: to upgrade to the latest DVB-T2 standard by the end of 2022. Just want exactly is DVB-T2 and what is the difference from the first generation DVB-T?

DVB stands for Digital Video Broadcasting, is a standard developed by an European consortium governing the technical specifications and implementation of the digital terrestrial broadcasting standards. The first generation of DVB is based on MPEG-2 video codec (a type of compression algorithm for making video file size smaller). MPEG-2 is commonly used in DVD videos. However, with the rising of High Definition videos and the need for 700MHz band (694-790MHz) to accommodate 5G mobile phone service, DVB-T2 is going to be the new standard for TV transmission for the coming decade and beyond.

DVB-T2 is based on a more efficient video codec: MPEG-4, a compression algorithm that allows higher quality video to be stored and transmitted using less data compared to the MPEG-2 codec. Let's talk about some significant improvement and benefits to you, the viewer. Take a look a the following photos for comparison of the current DVB-T and DVB-T2 image quality.

Screen shot of the lower resolution PAL MPEG-2 DVB-T video
Screen shot of the lower resolution PAL MPEG-2 DVB-T video

Screen shot of the higher resolution full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 video
Screen shot of the higher resolution full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 video

MPEG-4 supports 720P, 1080P HD (High-Definition) videos, which offers a much better image quality and clarify. In addition, there is support for 4K Ultra HD video. However, for the next few years, most broadcasters will be offering full HD (1080P) videos.

Full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 movie language audio track selection feature
Full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 movie language audio track selection feature

In addition, since it is a full digital broadcasting, you can expect the benefits found in DVD, Blu-Ray and web video services such as Netflix which offer multi-track languages and subtitles: all through over-the-air digital terrestrial broadcasting!

The downside is that unless your television set supports the latest DVB-T2 standard, you will need to either upgrade your TV to one that does or choose the more economical and ecological option: get a new decoder box.

Example of a digital terrestrial broadcasting decoder connected to a TV
Example of a digital terrestrial broadcasting decoder connected to a TV

What if you don't get a compatible TV with a built-in or external decoder for DVB-T2? Starting January 1, 2023, all existing DVB-T transmission will stop and there will be no more programs on that platform.

Is it possible to do a firmware upgrade to your DVB-T decoder to support DVB-T2? Unfortunately, it is not possible as DVB-T2 requires different frequency and decoding hardware. If your TV's internal or external decoder does not explicitly support DVB-T2, then it is not possible to upgrade it.

What if you get a DVB-T2 decoder now, can you still watch DVB transmission from stations which have not made the transition to DVB-T2 yet? DVB-T2 is backward compatible with the current DVB-T standard, so with your new decoder you will continue to enjoy the current stations until they fully switch to the new standard.

To assist families in the lower income level with the transition to the new technology. The Italian Ministry of Economic Development is offering two types of subsidies to resident of Italy who is part of a nuclear family with declared income below 20000 euros (ISEE declaration). This is limited to one per declared nuclear family.

The first type is the simple TV Decoder Bonus, which you just have to compile a form and bring it to any shop participating in the scheme. The bonus is 30 euros off the purchase of any new DVB-T2 decoder. Most shops selling TV and decoders are participating in this scheme. It is easy: if you are meet the qualification, bring the completed form and an ID, and you can walk away with free decoder. Most shops have decoders priced at 30 euros just to meet the demand under this bonus. For the detailed official information and to download the form, visit the government's official web site.

The second option is trading your old TV to be demolished and properly recycled for a discount toward a new one. The income requirement is the same, however there are few more details:

The TV being demolished must be purchased before December 22, 2018 The declared family must be current with its payment for the annual state TV fee

A qualified household can be eligible for a discount of up to 20% or a maximum of 100 euros toward the purchase of a new TV supporting DVB-T2. In order to do this, you must bring the old eligible TV to a participating retailer which is licensed to recycle this type of electronic equipment properly according to the law. For official information and the necessary forms, visit the official scheme's web site.

For many people with older digital (LCD/LED) TV supporting high definition video, there is no need to waste a perfectly good TV. It would be much easier just get the external decoder instead. These schemes will end December 31, 2022. So if you are eligible, hurry up and get your new decoder or TV. If you are not eligible, decoders are quite affordable, usually starting around 30 euros.

DVB-T2 is the future for digital TV broadcasting for this decade and beyond (4K Ultra HD video when they will become the new standard). With the European Union mandate, more people will be able to enjoy higher quality videos with more features than what was possible before.

Screen shot of the lower resolution PAL MPEG-2 DVB-T video
Screen shot of the lower resolution PAL MPEG-2 DVB-T video

Screen shot of the higher resolution full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 video
Screen shot of the higher resolution full HD MPEG-4 DVB-T2 video