What does OTA mean? It stands for Over The Air television reception, as has been available free-of-charge in Canada since the early 1950s. It is not to be confused with FTA, which is a form of satellite TV reception. OTA is broadcast either in old-style Analog or in new Digital television (DTV, which includes HDTV). The quality improvement of DTV is huge. The Government of Canada has set the date by which OTA broadcasters must convert their old-style analogue transmitters to new digital OTA broadcasting: August 31, 2011. Canada uses the ATSC (8VSB) standard used in the U.S.A., Mexico, South Korea, and Taiwan, with more Western Hemisphere nations expected. ATSC is not compatible with the DVB-T standard used in all other countries except Japan, which has its own ISDB-T standard.
2. Is OTA expensive? In an ongoing poll of DHC OTA users, the great majority have paid less than $500 Canadian for all the OTA gear they required. Less than 1% paid more than $1,000. Some have canceled some or all of their satellite or cable programming, so their OTA equipment will pay for itself in savings over time. There are no direct costs or fees to the consumer for OTA programming.
3. Are there OTA stations in my area? Before asking in the OTA Forum, you must first check the Results thread for your area and read through it from the beginning to see what DHCers have already reported.
Also check this very generalized map of possible U.S. DTV OTA reception opportunities in Canada, as of January 2007:
And here is a list of all Industry Canada present and future TV channel allotments:
4. Will I get stations from more than one city? TV antennas need to be pointed at the broadcast antenna, so if the cities are fairly well lined up in one direction, aim an antenna and enjoy. If you are fairly evenly between two locations there are antennas that receive front and back simultaneously. If the cities are wide apart, mount the antenna on a rotor. You can program the rotor\'s remote control to turn the antenna into proper position, which will usually take less than 30 seconds. Some DHCers have used 2 or more antennas aimed in different directions rather than a rotor, but such configurations can be difficult to properly align.
5. What if the stations are far away? TV signals typically start to drop off in strength as they travel about 120 to 180 km outwards from the broadcast antenna, so reception in those deep fringe and deepest fringe areas requires special antennas, gear, and installation techniques as you reach or exceed the higher distances.
6. Will my TV get the Digital stations? Check new HDTVs to see if they have an integrated ATSC Tuner. Older TVs and unfortunately some brand new HDTVs still have NTSC-only tuners, which will not receive DTV stations and will be obsolete after August 31, 2011. TV Tuners in Canada labeled "ATSC/QAM" are hybrids that receive digital OTA and digital Cable TV (QAM) signals, depending on which of them you connect. You may have one in your satellite or cable receiver, but this bonus feature is usually only found on higher end ExpressVU but not on Rogers Cable or Shaw Cable systems. The top StarChoice receiver can be fitted with an aftermarket ATSC tuner module. Without an ATSC Tuner you will need to purchase one as a Set Top Box (STB), and there are threads here that discuss different brands. The integrated ATSC tuners used in ExpressVu satellite receivers are not as capable as the newest STB. Computer users have a range of ATSC tuners available for their Apple, Windows, and Linux machines.
7. What do I need to know about antennas?
8. Okay, which antenna do I need? The DHC OTA Forum contains detailed threads about different OTA antenna brands and models, and there is also a Downloadable Antenna Decision Chart (PDF) available there but you\'ll need to do some reading in the OTA Forum to understand the rankings and other criteria in it.
Here are the most highly regarded consumer antennas:
9. Why do antennas still look the same as my grandfather\'s after all these years? Aren\'t they old fashioned? No, TV antenna technology is essentially the same as it has been for several decades because the laws of electromagnetism and physics apply equally now as they did then. Manufacturers now have modern materials to work with so the construction of their products seems to be more durable, but antennas often last more than 20 years. Since TV antennas have been around so long, there is already a large body of real world knowledge about antenna designs and capabilities.
10. Which other equipment will I need? There may be conditions affecting your reception that require specific equipment, such as preamps, attenuators, distribution amplifiers, splitters, combiners, a tower, etc. If you try such equipment without proper knowledge or guidance you could damage your TV and other equipment. The OTA Forum is the right place to ask the experts.
11. Aren\'t satellite and cable TV better than OTA TV? For specialty channels and pay-per-view movies and events, satellite (DBS) or cable (CATV) are needed because such channels as TSN and Discovery HD are not broadcast OTA. However, if you want regular, local programming, OTA is free of charge! Also, in case you are planning a move to another city, CATV set top boxes from one cable company almost always do not work with the systems of other cable companies, while DBS can be moved anywhere and OTA gear works fine as long as stations are available.
TV signals traveling via DBS or CATV systems undergo various types of processing on their way to you, including MPEG lossy digital compression/expansion steps which may introduce signal degradation. Typically an OTA station will receive its pure Network Broadcast Master signal via C-band satellite or fibre optic link with no compression, and then rebroadcast the same signal directly in ATSC format, which contains just one level of MPEG compression. Thus, the signal travels directly from the broadcast antenna to your antenna at light speed with no intervening processing steps until the MPEG stream is decoded in your ATSC receiver.
If you have an ATSC tuner in your TV and live in a suitable area, what\'s the harm in hooking up an antenna and seeing OTA for yourself? Even so, suit yourself and respect the decisions of others.
12. Does Digital OTA TV have an On Screen Guide? Yes, the ATSC standard incorporates a data standard called PSIP, which contains program, channel, time, and other data for the ATSC tuner to display. See this thread about PSIP data:
13. Why is everything here named in letters that I don\'t understand? See the DHC FAQ regarding Acronyms & Definitions:
14. What does DX mean? Here in the OTA forum we sometimes use the term DX, which means Dial Crossing. DXing has been a hobby of enthusiasts going back to the early days of radio and now of television. DXers enjoy scanning broadcast frequencies in search of unusual or long distance signals, such as during odd weather conditions. Thus, DXers are very knowledgeable about high quality equipment and the techniques needed. Many TV DXers are also HAM radio enthusiasts.
OTA Channel list by region, Click on your Area
|CBFT-DT ( SRC )||Montréal||2.1 ( 19 )||ATSC|
|CFJP-DT ( TQS )||Montréal||35.1 (42)||ATSC|
|CIVM ( Télé-Québec )||Montréal||17.1 (27.1)||ATSC|
|CBMT-DT ( CBC )||Montréal||20.1||ATSC|
|WFFF-DT ( Fox 44 )||Burlington||44.1||ATSC|