FROM OUR CUSTOMERS: How can you get Channel 2 with a UHF antenna?

During a recent chat with a customer, we had occasion to recommend a UHF-only antenna. Our customer knew a little about antennas, and he wisely asked,

“How can I get my channel 2 and 4 with just a UHF antenna? I thought UHF was channel 14 and up?”

It’s an interesting question and the answer goes back to the mid-2000s when the government was trying to manage the transition between regular TV and digital TV. At that time every station was given access to a second frequency, often in the UHF band, so they could broadcast their old analog signal and their new digital signal at the same time. UHF frequencies were chosen because they travel long distances better and because there are so many more available channels.

This created problems, because (for example) your channel 2’s digital signal might be found on channel 36. Stations that had spent decades building a brand based on their channel numbers were outraged that they might have to permanently move to a new home on the VHF band.

The answer was PSIP – the Program and System Information Protocol that’s included in every digital signal. The rules allow any station to display their old channel number instead of the new one, and PSIP works kind of like a “shortcut on the desktop” so that when you choose (for example) channel 2, it tunes to channel 36. It displays as channel 2 on your screen and you’re none the wiser. Once an hour stations are required to show their real channel IDs; you’ll see them flash by at the top of the hour usually.

So even though you think you’re tuning to channel 2 or channel 4, our tools can tell what channels you’re really tuning into, and we can recommend an antenna based on what you really get. So you may not need that massive VHF antenna, just a more compact UHF one.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.