Digital terrestrial: what does FTA mean

If you have finally understood what Mpeg-4, HEVC, H.264 and H.265 mean, then you are almost ready for the new digital terrestrial DVB-T2: all you need to know is what FTA means

As everyone knows by now, also thanks to the advertising campaigns and information signs broadcast on RAI and Mediaset channels, starting from October 20th, those who do not have a TV or a decoder compatible with the Mpeg-4 video format will not be able to watch many channels of these two major publishing groups. This is the first technical phase of the switch off to the new second generation digital terrestrial TV, long announced (and postponed several times).

The switch from Mpeg-2 to Mpeg-4, together with the new Bonus TV 2021, is pushing many viewers to scrap their old equipment and buy a new Smart TV or a new decoder, fully compatible with the new TV signal. The problem for many, however, is to understand what they are buying because, in the face of salespeople and sellers often unwilling to talk (because they are forced, every day, to answer dozens of times the same questions), the would-be buyer is faced with a jumble of acronyms and technical specifications that he can not understand: DVB-T2, DVB-T2 + S2, DTT, Mpeg, HEVC, H.264 and H.265 and so on and so forth. It doesn't get any better on Amazon or other online shops, where the complicated acronyms remain but there's no one to ask for explanations. One of the definitions that you can find among the technical specifications of decoders and TVs, but that few still know, is FTA. Here's what it means.

What FTA means on decoders and TVs

FTA stands for "Free-to-Air", that is, transmitted freely over the air. Free-to-Air means unencrypted, so that anyone with an FTA decoder can watch that channel without having to pay a subscription.

The acronym FTA, therefore, is common to all decoders since the transmission of free channels on digital terrestrial is the norm. Apart from very rare exceptions, therefore, all external decoders and all Smart TVs compatible with DVB-T2 are now of the FTA type and can tune "Free-to-Air" channels without any problem.

There are, however, also some decoders capable of tuning both FTA and encrypted channels.

FTA decoders for encrypted channels

As we all know by now, the vast majority of TV channels broadcast on digital terrestrial television are free, but there are also encrypted channels. The two main examples of encrypted channels are those of Sky and channel 409 of DAZN, used to broadcast Serie A matches in areas of Italy where there is a fast enough Internet connection.

To see these channels, without giving up the FTA ones, you need a decoder capable of tuning and showing both. In the case of Sky the decoder you need is the Sky Q, in the case of DAZN is the DAZN TV Box.

Both these decoders are able to decode both encrypted and FTA channels, but obviously on Sky Q you will not see the channel 409 of DAZN and on the DAZN TV Box you will not see Sky channels.