FACE IT: VHF isn’t going away

Back in 2009, television signals here in the US went all digital. If you were interested in antennas and TV back then you might remember there was a whole transition period where both analog and digital signals were being broadcast, and when all was said and done a lot of stations broadcast from a different frequency than they did when they started.

The hope at that time was that most if not all stations would move to UHF frequencies. This would mean smaller antennas and easier installation, and it would make it easier for antenna makers to build one antenna that would work in most of the world.

It didn’t happen that way. For cost reasons, many broadcasters chose to remain at their original frequencies, and most of the major broadcasters stayed on channels 7-13. This meant they could use much of the same equipment they’d always used, and because broadcasters have a good lobby, the FCC allowed it. This means that most large markets in the United States have at least one VHF station and, in the case of very large markets like Los Angeles, they can have two or three. So much for the dream of a tiny little antenna.

VHF stations need bigger antennas because the radio waves themselves are bigger. The really big waves, the ones on channels 2-6, aren’t used for TV anymore except in a couple of cities, but if you want to get all of your networks from your antenna, many people will find they need an antenna that picks up both UHF and VHF.

If you’ve already put up a UHF antenna, you can supplement it with a VHF-only antenna like this Televes Yagi BIII which only picks up VHF-High signals from channels 7-13. An inexpensive combiner or one of Televes’ amplifier/combiner hybrids will do the trick for putting all your channels on one cable. It’s an easy upgrade and both antennas can sit on the same mast in most cases.

If you’re ready to upgrade to a UHF/VHF antenna, you can’t do much better than the ones from Televes. They provide smart amplification and advanced filtering in a powerful and modern package. Choose the Televes DAT790 Mix for most cases or choose the larger DAT790 LR Mix for the maximum signal gain. Both deliver excellent results to multiple TVs and will pull in every channel from 7-51 without accidentally receiving or amplifying cell phone signals that can cause problems with your TV.

It doesn’t look like VHF broadcasting is going away either. The FCC does hope to reassign a bunch of television frequencies in the next few years but they’re looking at the 600MHz range, not the VHF frequency range, as the next target. There’s a huge demand for cellular data, and VHF isn’t as good for that purpose. So as the UHF band continues to shrink, it looks like we’ll be stuck with VHF for a while.

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.