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Switchover to digital television by 2013

Ministers’ release: 16 September 2010

The Government announced today that New Zealand will complete the switch to digital television by 2013.

''Our election promise was to achieve digital switchover (DSO) by 2015 at the latest. With 70 percent of New Zealand households already watching digital television, we are in a good position to set a date for DSO,'' says Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman.

''In achieving DSO by the end of 2013, all of New Zealand will receive the benefit of enhanced reception, better picture quality and more channels There will be a substantial wider economic benefit generated by the use of freed up spectrum for new technology. ''Achieving DSO earlier brings forward the total economic benefits which are estimated to be in the range of $1.1 billion to $2.4 billion over 20 years. 'Countries the world over are going through the same process and by achieving DSO it means New Zealand keeps pace with technological developments''

Digital switchover will be phased starting with Hawke's Bay and the West Coast in September 2012. The rest of the country will switch over in three stages with an end date of November 2013.

Communications and IT Minister Steven Joyce says digital television technology makes much more efficient use of radio spectrum than analogue technology, freeing up a large amount of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for new uses.
"We expect this spectrum will be ideal for 4G mobile technologies, which will give New Zealanders access to faster mobile broadband services and with improved coverage.''

The 700 MHz band has good coverage qualities which make it more economic for mobile service providers and also more attractive for providing rural wireless broadband. "With this spectrum being made available for new uses New Zealand remains competitive on the world stage. The implementation of 4G technology will be crucial if New Zealand is to continue to improve its productivity, prosperity and economic growth," says Mr Joyce.

Households that have Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear, are already set for digital switchover.  Other viewers do not need to buy a new television to make the switch, but may need to buy a set-top box and possibly a new aerial or satellite dish depending on what equipment they currently have and where they live.

A campaign will be launched later this year to provide additional information and support.

More information on digital switchover is available from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage:

What is Digital Switch Over?

Digital Switchover is the process of consumers making the changes necessary for them to receive digital TV signals.

Digital television has been available in New Zealand for several years and offers viewers better quality pictures and more choice of channels. From September 2012 New Zealand's older analogue television network will be progressively switched off in favour of the digital signal.

 Who is switching and when?

 The switchover will occur in four stages:

  •         Hawke's Bay and the West Coast in September 2012
  •          rest of the South Island in April 2013
  •         Lower North Island, Taranaki and Gisborne in September 2013, and
  •          rest of the North Island in November 2013.

An information campaign will be launched later this year to provide additional information and support about the digital switchover.

Does my television receive a digital signal?

70 percent of New Zealand households with television already receive a digital television signal. If you currently watch your television through Freeview, SKY or TelstraClear then you are already watching digital television.

How do I get digital television?

There are two ways to receive digital TV, either by installing a Freeview set-top box or subscribing to a pay television service such as Sky or TelstraClear.

Do I need to purchase a new TV?

No. While most new TVs have inbuilt tuners which will receive Freeview signals throughout most of New Zealand, the purchase of a new TV is not required. For TVs without an inbuilt digital tuner, you can simply install a set-top box.

How much will it cost?

To make the switch, all that most people will need is a set-top box which currently retails for between $150 and $200. It can be easily installed by plugging it into the back of the television and plugging the aerial lead into the set-top box.

The majority of New Zealand households already have an existing UHF aerial or satellite dish. If you do not have either, you may have to purchase one. For more information on options and equipment go to

Depending on people's circumstances, they may wish to have their equipment professionally installed.  While the costs vary depending on the size of the house and the location of the aerial, it is likely to cost between $300 - $400 for a set-top box and a new aerial. This includes installation.  A UHF aerial can cost between $80-100; a satellite dish (with mounting kit) costs between $200-$250.

Local retailers should be able to provide you with more advice on what you need. Once the set-top box and right aerial or satellite dish are installed, if needed, there is no ongoing cost to watch Freeview.

Further information on equipment, installation and digital switch-over is available from

Will there be an assistance package to help people make the switch?

The uptake of digital television has grown by five percent a year for the past two years despite limited publicity of the pending digital switchover. With an information campaign to be launched later this year, we expect the uptake level to grow.

Overseas experience has shown there will be a small proportion of the population in genuine need that will require government assistance to make the switch. We will be monitoring digital take-up rates closely.

Details of on assistance package for those people who genuinely do not have the resources to make the switch will be available in late-2011.

When do I need to have digital television by?

In September 2012 the Hawke's Bay and the West Coast will be the first regions in New Zealand to receive television signals via digital transmission only. The rest of the country will be switched over in four stages with an end date of November 2013. Precise dates will be announced closer to the time. Those who don't have a digital receiver after this date won't be able to watch TV.

 Why is the switch over happening in 2013?

Freeing up the spectrum provides economic opportunities and allows space to introduce 4G mobile telephone services. This provides for a faster and more modern service.

Having a significant amount of spectrum available for new uses will enable New Zealand to keep up with international developments in wireless communications and information technology, to improve productivity and economic performance.

What if I have a second television set?

If you wish, you can choose to connect multiple televisions to a single set-top box. Because you will select the channel you wish to watch using the set-top box, rather than with your television, all televisions connected to the same set-top box will be tuned in to the same channel at the same time.

However, you may wish to make each of your televisions independently digital ready, by connecting a separate set-top box to each of them.
No matter how many televisions and set-top boxes you end up with, you will only need a single aerial or satellite dish.

Will the digital terrestrial television (DTT) network be extended?

Currently 75% of the population is able to receive DTT coverage.

The Government is in discussion with the broadcasting industry about extending DTT. Indicatively, we expect the following areas to be covered by the extension: Invercargill, Timaru, Nelson, Wairarapa, Gisborne, Taranaki, Taupo, Rotorua and Whangarei.

What is the estimated economic benefit of DSO?

The Ministry of Economic Development estimates that freeing up the spectrum has an economic advantage of $1.1 billion - $2.4 billion for the economy over the next 20 years due to the lower costs of deploying mobile networks in the 700 MHz band, resulting in lower costs for consumers.

The numbers

    * 98% of New Zealand homes have working televisions.
    * 70% of homes with TVs have already switched at least one set to digital.
    * There is regional variation in levels of digital uptake:

Region -  Digital Uptake

West Coast  81%

Northland  78%

Wellington  76%

Otago  74%

Tasman/ Nelson/ Marlborough  73%

Waikato  71%

Hawke's Bay/ Gisborne   70%

Auckland   70%

Taranaki  70%

Southland  68%

Bay of Plenty  67%

Canterbury  66%

Manawatu/ Wanganui  62%

    * Digital television is popular with viewers with nine per cent of households having both Freeview and Sky/ TelstraClear.

The quality of signal transmission and awareness of digital television are contributing factors to the variation in regional uptake.

 Why digital?

Switchover will extend television coverage to all New Zealanders and free up airwaves for new services such as ultra-fast wireless broadband and mobile television.

 Viewers benefit from better quality picture and sound, including the capacity for High Definition (HD) and even 3D, and for many viewers - especially in more remote and/or rugged terrain areas - improved reception.

Viewers also benefit from a wider range of channels and advanced features - such as the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) which allows viewers to use their TV to find out the schedule for upcoming shows. Some viewers will also benefit from digital TV's capacity for specialist services, such as audio descriptions which can assist those with visual impairment, and improved subtitling which can assist those with hearing impairment.

What is the difference between a digital and analogue signal?

Analogue is the way that we have received television signals since television began. The digital signal can carry much more information than analogue resulting in near DVD picture and sound quality. It also allows broadcasters to offer more channels and a range of new and different services.

What is UHF?

UHF is the ultra-high frequency range within the radio spectrum.  It is used mainly for the transmission of television and telecommunications signals.

What is the 700 MHz band?  Why is it important?

The 700 MHz band is a range of frequencies in the radio spectrum. The 700 MHz band is particularly suitable for the provision of new 4G mobile communication services which will give New Zealanders access to faster mobile broadband services and improved coverage.

The United States, for example is building mobile networks in this band and other countries are also planning similar networks.  This will help New Zealand to have access to cheaper equipment, building a stronger economy and supporting the increased use of mobile data devices.

 What are other countries doing?

The United States and parts of the EU have already completed the DSO change.

The United Kingdom switchover will be completed in 2012.

Australia is aiming to complete DSO in late 2013.

Information on the Digital Switch Over and digital television packages are available from:

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage -

Freeview -

Sky television -

TelstraClear -


Updated on 7th October 2019