ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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The End of an Era, the Analog Switch-off Nears

New York, Aug 27, 2007

NTSC, the analog television system standard that has brought America’s most-loved broadcasts to living rooms since 1941—from The Honeymooners to the The Ed Sullivan Show to Seinfeld—is on its way out. Beginning February 17, 2009, all U.S. television broadcasts will be exclusively digital.

The analog switch-off will render all non-digital televisions obsolete and herald a new era of television technologies. The initiative is part of a worldwide trend toward digital-only broadcasting. Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the first countries to make the switch in 2006; Sweden and Switzerland are soon to follow.

To ease the transition, most U.S. broadcasting companies are currently beaming their signals in both analog and digital formats. As of March of this year, all newly manufactured television sets that receive over-the-air signals have been required to include digital or high definition (HDTV) tuners, by order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Did You Know?

  • The NTSC is named for the National Television Standards Committee, a group established by FCC to resolve conflicts between companies over the introduction of a nationwide analog television system.

  • Following the analog switch-off, the FCC will auction off channels 52–59 in the lower half of the 700 MHz band for other communications traffic.

  • In part, the transition is happening to open additional air waves to firefighters and police so they can better communicate during emergencies.

The advantages of digital television include special services such as multiplexing (more than one program on the same channel), electronic program guides, and additional languages. Digital channels also take up less bandwidth, meaning that broadcasters can provide more channels in the same space. Thanks to cable and satellite services, consumers can surf through literally hundreds of channels. Voluntary standards from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), helps TV viewers take advantage of television’s countless possibilities.

Digital Transmission Standard For Cable Television, ANSI/SCTE 07 2006, describes the channel coding, modulation, and framing structure for digital, multi-service distribution for cable TV. The system can be used with satellite distribution, since many cable systems are fed directly from satellite links. ANSI/SCTE 40-2004, Digital Cable Network Interface Standard, specifies the network interface between consumer TV equipment and a cable television plant to enable multi-channel programming.

Another ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is currently at work on standards that will help further support the thriving industry. BSR/IEEE 1632-200x, will detail methods for measuring the power level of digitally-modulated television signals, while BSR/IEEE 1631-200x will specify means of measuring the frequency spectrum. Both standards will include definitions to apply and interpret the measurement techniques.

For helpful tips on gearing up for the analog switch-off, consumers can look to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration guide, “Preparing for the Digital Television Transition.”

ANSI Focus on Services Standards