Digital television

Last week I was called by someone from KPN, telling me that I could try out digital television for free, for eight days.

With digital television, of course, the image quality should be better than with normal, old-fashioned, analog tv. It also includes digital radio, providing superior sound quality. And all that for less than what I pay to my (analog) cable company!

So I said yes. Why not try it for free?


I got the box and installed everything yesterday.
You get an antenna, and a box, and a smart card. You connect the antenna to the box and insert the smart card. It’s all really easy.

But you cannot connect the cable antenna from your tv and radio to the box, because the box is a digital tuner! So the box replaces the tuner from your television and from your radio!

Instead, you have to connect the box with a scart-cable to your television. And with a standard audio-cable to an auxiliary input of your amplifier.
So, just rip out the tuner from your tv, throw away the tuner from your stereo set, and throw away both remote controls, because you don’t need them anymore! And with that, you probably also threw away some of the special features of both tv and radio.

So why did I buy a tv that can store 100 channels, if I now only use the scart input? Why do I have split-screen teletext and 100 pages of memory, if I cannot use it? Why do I have a combined amplifier/tuner with RDS if my radio channels come in through AUX?

I would rather have seen that the box from KPN would have simply replaced the wall socket for my tv and radio antenna cables, than this – a replacement tuner.

Besides these practical drawbacks, there’s more. The picture quality isn’t better than normal analog tv. Of course, there sometimes is a bit of noise on one or two of the analog channels, but when there isn’t, I cannot see the difference between analog and digital. Oh wait, sometimes I can. On digital tv, you occasionally see the typical MPEG block artefacts, which you don’t get on analog tv.

Switching channels is really slow. But hey, you get less channels anyway… You “only” get 24 tv channels (BBC 1 and 2 are not included and won’t be any time soon) and 17 radio channels. With my analog cable provider, UPC, I get 33 and 38 channels respectively.

And finally, because I now have only one tuner, I can watch tv, or listen to the radio… but not both. I can record a video, or listen to the radio… but not both. I can record a video, or watch tv… but not both.

You can buy a Twin tuner, with which, as you probably already guessed, you can do that. But of course, the Twin tuner is somewhat more expensive.
And if you want to watch tv in another room…? Yes, you have to buy another tuner – unless everybody in the house wants to watch the same programme, of course.

Oh, and by the way, if you get a phonecall from someone at KPN, saying you can try digital television for free, and you do want to try it for yourself, (even after reading this), don’t be surprised if you have to pay the postman 40 Euros, because that’s what the “free” tuner will cost.

Update (Feb. 4): Returning the box isn’t as easy as you might think. You cannot just pack everything in a box and bring it to the post-office. No, you have to call KPN first, because you need a return number. And of course, calling from my work, I didn’t have the smartcard-number available when I called, and they absolutely need that for creating the return number. So, the next day I called again, after looking up the smartcard-number at home, and they provided me with a return number.

They also asked when I got the whole package, because I could try it for free for eight days. So I said, I activated the smart-card on Friday, January 28th. You have to activate the card by phone, so you’d think they would know that at KPN. But apparently not.
Instead, the lady on the phone told me that on Friday 28th, my contract had started, so my 8-day free trial period was already over before I had even activated the smartcard!

She could tell me that I was called about the free trial on January 18. Apparently, they sent me the package the next day and on the same day started the trial period. Even though I didn’t hear about the package until the 25th. That day the postman tried to deliver the package, but of course I was at work. He left a message saying that I could pick up a package from KPN at the post office for Eur. 39,95. The next day I called KPN to ask why I should pay Eur. 39,95 for a free trial and they told me I’d have to pay for the tuner. So the next day I could pick up the package, and as I didn’t have the time to install it, I did that the day after (Friday 28th). But by then, my free trial was already over.

Well, I never signed any contract of course, so they’d better not charge me anything and just return me the Eur. 39,95, or else I think I’m going to get really angry.

No, if you hadn’t figured it out yet, I am not very enthousiastic about digital television by KPN!

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Saturday, January 29th, 2005 Computing, Interesting, Personal

1 Comment to Digital television

  1. Thanks for the warning!
    Some colleagues of mine have tried it out, and they’ve taken all the drawbacks for granted.
    But if I read your story, I don’t think I’d want it…

  2. ari on February 5th, 2005

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