Can an antenna be “4K Ultra HD Ready?”

Yes… and no.

By now, you’re well aware of 4K. It’s a level of quality that’s four times better than HD. If you’ve bought a TV in the last two or three years, it’s probably 4K. The cost for these TVs has come down so far that practically no one is making HDTVs larger than 32″ anymore. This may lead you to wonder if you should be considering 4K when you’re shopping for an antenna.

What you need to know is simple

Your antenna doesn’t care if you’re watching 4K or HD or digital. An antenna made in 1960 will work just fine for digital TV, even though digital TV wasn’t even a thought back then. It will also work just fine for 4K. In fact, the antennas they made back then to get channels 2-83 are even a bit of overkill. Today you really only need to get channels 7-59, and in some areas only channels 14-59. That’s the reason that antennas have gotten smaller in recent years; it’s because in most cases they don’t need to pull in as many channels.

So to be clear, there’s nothing that would make an antenna better or worse for digital, 4K, or HD for that matter. But really that’s not the disappointing part.

The disappointing part

The disappointing part is that there is not any over-the-air 4K television to watch, at least not over the air. And even more disappointing, there might never be. The ATSC 3.0 standard is slowly lurching its way into reality. Broadcasters are slowly beginning test broadcasts but it could still be years before they areready for regular folks to view. It’s possible — possible, not definite — that there could be 4K broadcasting by the later part of this decade. Put it this way: the first HDTV broadcast in the US was in 1996 and it took about eleven years for most content to go HD. That was aided by a government rule change requiring broadcasters to go digital. Such a rule change never took place before and it’s not likely to take place again.

That’s right

So yeah, I’m saying what you think I’m saying: it’s possible there may never be 4K television broadcast over the air. If there is, it will be done using existing broadcast frequencies, so you could technically say that any antenna that receives existing broadcasts will receive 4K ones, if they ever show up. Anything’s possible at this point. It’s even possible that there will be a translation matrix like PSIP. In this scenario, when you tune to a channel, the TV automatically knows whether or not it can use the 4K signal.  An HDTV will use the HD signal and a 4KTV will use the 4K signal, sort of how it used to work with black-and-white televisions. Never say never, but that would be a real long shot and require technologies we haven’t invented yet. So, once again, it’s a long way off.

So generally I tend to advise people to be futureproof but in this case I’m just not sure that it’s really necessary. Buy the antenna that suits you today and don’t worry so much about 4K.

in the meantime, if you’re looking for an antenna, shop the great selection at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.