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Design and Installation of Outdoor TV Antenna

Digital television (DTV) transition June 12, 2009 motivated me to review our outdoor TV antenna and undertake an upgrade program during the fall of 2008. We live in a rural area able to receive both Boston and NH stations. Boston stations are 42 miles away; nearest NH station is only 13 miles distant.

This paper documents steps we took to evaluate options and install an outdoor antenna and our experience with the system over the years. Over the air (OTA) TV reception had fallen out of favor with rising popularity of Cable and Satellite providers but seems to be experiencing somewhat of a renaissance.

About 20% of American households currently rely exclusively on over-the-air TV and a significant number of Cable and Satellite subscribers use OTA for one or more TVs. There is much talk about cutting the cord, folks that have canceled Cable and Sat TV subscriptions, so far the trend is small but seems to be accelerating.

OTA image quality is often better than Cable or Satellite because channels are not recompressed (transcoded) to fit available capacity. DTV dramatically improves video and audio quality while allowing multiple programs to fit into the same RF channel occupied by a single analog program.

Many broadcast stations now offer one or more standard definition (SDTV) channels as well as a main program in high definition (HDTV). For most households DTV increased the number of TV channels. As with every thing in engineering there are tradeoffs.

With analog TV picture degrades gradually becoming snowy as signal decreases. Digital is perfect until signal reaches a critical threshold, called the cliff effect. At that point receiver is no longer able to recover program. DTV suffer more from multipath reflections then analog. This can be a particular problem in urban areas with lots of tall building.
Source: Tschmidt
Authors: Tom Schmidt

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