Are 4K OTA Broadcasts Available Right Now

Are 4K OTA Broadcasts Available Right Now?

Are 4K OTA Broadcasts coming this year? It’s no secret that 4K TV’s have been on the market now for a few years, yet we still haven’t seen any major networks broadcasting in 4K resolution yet. What is causing the delay? Are there technical hiccups? Is there “red-tape” causing delays in their ability to transmit 4K TV and our ability to pickup these signals free over the air waves? In this article I will dig into some of these questions and hopefully uncover some answers that will suggest that 4K OTA Broadcasts are just around the corner.

Perhaps the best way to get free TV is to install an HDTV antenna that will enable you to receive current and future 4K OTA Broadcasts available in your area. By installing an OTA (Over-the-Air) Antenna you’ll be able to pickup local channels in your area in perfectly crisp HD without the need for cable or satellite.

That’s right, the signal you will pick up for free by installing a relatively inexpensive antenna will literally blow your mind. It will be an uncompressed clean signal that will light up your television set and your entire room! But will it be in 4K and are broadcasters currently transmitting 4K OTA Broadcasts?

What is 4K HDTV?

Before we dive into whether or not we’re going to see 4K OTA Broadcasts coming anytime soon, perhaps we should spend a few moments understanding what 4K is in terms of resolution and in terms of broadcast bandwidth.

So what does it mean when we say something has 4K resolution? Well 4K, also referred to as Ultra High Definition (UHD) implies that it has a minimum standardized 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution, meaning there are over 8 million pixels capable of delivering a crystal clear picture that has 4 times the clarity and definition of 1080p and over 23 times that of standard resolution.

Granted, on smaller displays you really won’t see a noticeable difference between a 720p, 1080p and 4K, however, as you increase the screen size to 50 inches and above it becomes noticeably different. The improvement in resolution you will gain from viewing a 4K picture on say a 70 inch television versus a 1080p picture will be undeniable.

That said, the increase in resolution does come at a cost, and that cost is bandwidth. To broadcast or stream a full 4K resolution is a lot more expensive in terms of bandwidth at more than twice to the utilization. That means if you wanted to stream a Netflix video in 4K you will need at least a 15 Mbps connection and 25 Mbps is the recommended minimum. If you are on a capped internet plan you will need to tightly monitor your usage as it won’t take long to burn through a significant amount of data in a short period of time.

While we’re discussing Netflix there are only a few boxes on the market that are actually certified to stream 4K movies and video. The best of these boxes are NVIDIA SHIELD TV Streaming Media Player and the Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD. So clearly there are options for receiving 4K HDTV broadcasts via online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu and the like, but what does it mean for those of us receiving our television from our HDTV Antenna? Are 4K OTA Broadcasts on the horizon?

Are 4K OTA Broadcasts Available Now?

The short answer to this is NO, not yet, but it is coming! That’s right there has been a lot of talk around the internet that 4K OTA Broadcasts are coming so it’s not a matter of if, it’s more a matter of when. A new standard is being developed to replace the current ATSC standard with ATSC 3.0.

This standard will leverage the same data compression algorithms used by current streaming services such as Netflix using HEVC or H.265 to encode the video with frame rates up to a whopping 120 fps. This will allow 4K OTA broadcasters to transmit video much more efficiently over the air waves providing hugely improved picture enhancements using technologies such as HDR.

In fact, ATSC President Mark Richer gave this statement during a press release along side Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro, and National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith:

Our suite of ATSC 3.0 standards paves the way for a new kind of television service, one that is far more flexible and adaptable than previous standards. ATSC 3.0 will bring historic innovations to broadcasters and to viewers, from robust transmission to immersive audio, and from 4K Ultra-HDTV to interactive services and more.

The 20 individual standards that comprise the release of ATSC 3.0 will give broadcasters the ability to utilize new transmission methods and finally bring together innovations in both over-the-air and broadband services…

The ATSC 3.0 standard is a complete redesign and is being built from the ground up to improve the current ATSC standard to allow for brilliant 4K OTA Broadcasts that will see improved reliability, coverage, video and audio quality. That means when the move to 4K OTA Broadcasts finally does happen, your HDTV Antenna will get a big boost in terms of its ability to pull in high quality signals.

What Does This Mean For My Current Hardware?

There is likely a small down-side. When broadcasters elect to switch over to the new ATSC 3.0 standard it will mean that your current tuner hardware will not be able to decode the signal. This is bad news in terms of our current hardware, however, the upside is going to be undeniable with the improved digital quality we are going to experience in 4K OTA Broadcasts.

Keep in mind there is likely going to be a slow transition for broadcasters as there will be no pressure applied by the FCC in order to make this change. Unlike back in 2009 when broadcasters were being forced to switch to digital transmission from analog.

In all actuality, even when broadcasters do migrate to the new ATSC 3.0 standard they will likely maintain their ATSC 1.0 channel transmissions for some time. That said, it will be up to you to decide if you want to jump in on 4K OTA Broadcasts with both feet or hold off until it becomes a little more mainstream. If you’re anything like me then there’s no way I’m not jumping on board!

Will My Old Antenna Pickup 4K OTA Broadcasts?

The short answer, YES! There really is no such thing as an HDTV Antenna. It’s really all a marketing ploy to sell antennas. Now not to say that the engineering and technology being built into modern antennas hasn’t improved, of course it has, but your old rabbit ears should be able to pull in any current HD or future 4K OTA Broadcasts.

In order to be effective in receiving current HD and future 4K OTA Broadcasts in your area, there are a few things you’ll need to consider which I will discuss below.

Find Your Sense Of Direction

The first thing you are going to need to do is figure out where your broadcast transmission towers are relative to your home. I’ve put together a HDTV Channel Map if you live in or near the Buffalo N.Y. area, complete with all the channels you should be able to pick up, otherwise, there are some good tools available on the web that provide more advanced features and capabilities. Two that are good and that I’ve used myself are TVFool.com and AntennaWeb.org.

Once you have a good idea where you are located and in what general direction the TV broadcast towers are you need to determine your distance to the various broadcast towers. Again the tools listed above should help you with that task.

With any luck most of the over-the-air (OTA) broadcast will be in the 75 mile or closer region so that you can get a strong reliable signal to the televisions in your home. If not, that’s okay too, it just means you’re into a longer range antenna which tends to be a little bulkier and harder to tune in.

Should You Use An Indoor or Outdoor Antenna?

The age old debate I know, while the convenience of installing an indoor antenna is a tempting one, I only recommend doing so if you really have not other choice but to do so. What do I mean? Well, the only reason you should even consider an indoor antenna is because you live in a high rise apartment building or condominium complex where installing an outdoor antenna is either not permitted or impossible.

Not to take anything away from some of the indoor antennas on the market today, they have come a long way as far as range and quality but they will prove inferior to a properly located outdoor antenna.

If you fall into the category, where installing an outdoor antenna is just not an option and you have no choice but to install an indoor one, let me recommend 3 good antennas I’ve used over the years that have seen good success.

Recommended Indoor HDTV Antennas:

1. Mohu Curve 50 TV Antenna Amplified 50-Mile Range MH-110567

4K OTA Broadcasts - Mohu Curved Amplified Indoor HDTV AntennaThis is by far the best indoor antenna I have ever used. It boasts a solid 50 mile range and is quite visually stunning to look at. One of the major drawbacks, I find, with indoor antennas is that typically you mount them on the wall close to your television set and it really looks quite “tacky” when hanging there on your wall with a wire drooped down.

This is what separates the Mohu Curved Antenna from the pack, there is no need to mount this antenna on the wall, you can find a convenient location on a bookshelf or entertainment unit and it will look like an elegant piece of tech in your living room and the signal reception is exceptional.

The Mohu Curved HDTV Antenna will allow you to access all HDTV channels and will be ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts in your area within a 50 mile range without the need for cable or satellite subscription. This list of channels should include local stations plus all the major network channels such as, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox. This antenna is also backed by a 1 year limited warranty, so if there are any issues or you’re not satisfied with the performance, simply return it for a full refund.

2. ClearStream ECLIPSE Amplified TV Antenna

4K OTA Broadcasts - ClearStream ECLIPSE Amplified TV Antenna

This is another visually stunning and powerful Indoor HDTV Antenna built by ClearStream. Similar to the Mohu antenna recommended above, the ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor Antenna will collect HDTV signals, and will be ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts up to 50+ miles out. It’s multi-directional design will pull in signals from multiple locations and amplify those signals for a crisp clear playback.

The ClearStream Eclipse has one of the best performance ratings in its class and grips to your wall using its Sure Grip technology for easy installation (no screws or fasteners required). It also comes in multiple colors (black or white) so you can color coordinate the room you will be placing it in. The antenna is supplied with a 20dB In-Line Signal Amplifier, 15 ft. Coaxial Cable, 5 ft. USB Cable and USB Power Adapter.

Even though this indoor antenna is rated second on my list believe me, it’s a very close second (I have a few AntennaJunkies.com friends who disagree with me on this one…sorry guys my website!). Just like the Mohu, this antenna will pull in all the local and major network channels such as, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox, in your broadcast area. It should be noted also that this antenna is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

3. Channel Master CM-4001HD FLATenna Ultra-thin Indoor TV Antenna

4K OTA Broadcasts - Channel Master CM-4001HD FLATenna Ultra-thin Indoor TV Antenna

The ChannelMaster Flatenna is a good budget antenna that is well suited for those of you who are inside 35 miles of your local TV broadcast transmission towers. Ideally with this antenna you will have a relatively clear line of sight or at a higher elevation with unobstructed direction to your local broadcast towers. In my experience this antenna does not perform quite as well as the above listed Mohu Curved and ClearStream Eclipse but at around a $20 price point it is a very good performer, especially if you’re on a budget.

As is the case with most Indoor HDTV Antennas, the ChannelMaster Flatenna will receive crystal clear HDTV signals from all directions and its non-intrusive design makes it a nice addition to a living room wall or window, and will be ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts.

As is the case with all Indoor HDTV Antennas your ability to receive a good repeatable signal will depend largely on you location and your proximity to the television broadcasting towers. While I’ve made every effort to provide you with 3 really good options for Indoor Antennas, at various price points, ultimately there are no guarantees.

Recommended Outdoor HDTV Antennas:

Like I said above, when at all possible, in order to ensure you receive clear, crisp HDTV Antenna signals there is really no substitute to installing an outdoor antenna. Giving your antenna a clear, unobstructed view to the broadcast transmission

towers in your area, free of walls, bricks and mortar, will pay huge dividends when it comes to the number of channels, picture quality and reliability you will receive.

If you’re tired of paying those ever-increasing monthly cable and satellite bills, then an outdoor antenna option will provide you with everything you will need to receive high-quality, crystal clear, uncompressed HDTV for FREE! I cut the cable cord almost 10 years ago now and haven’t looked back since.

Over the years I have tried many different antennas some with very good success, others well, not that they weren’t good antennas, it was just that there weren’t a lot of resources online available like AntennaJunkies.com to educate me on how to choose an appropriate antenna for my area.

So, if you’re not “hand-cuffed” into an Indoor Antenna then here is a list of the top 3 Outdoor Antennas that are sure to provide you with years of high quality HDTV and the best part…it’s free TV! For a full list of our Top 10 Best Outdoor HDTV Antennas, check out our page, we’ve definitely listed something for everyone there regardless of your geographic location or region.

Okay, so let’s list the top 3 antennas we’ve rate here on AntennaJunkies.com so you have a shortlist that is sure to satisfy any Outdoor Antenna installation need.

1. RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV Antenna

4K OTA Broadcasts - RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV Antenna with 70 Mile RangeI just love this little RCA Yagi Antenna. It continues to rank in the top spot on Amazon and any other reputable review site (including ours) on the internet today. The reason this is such a great little antenna is that it will easily pull in all your local HDTV broadcasts within a 60-mile radius. It’s fold-out and compact design makes it a cinch to rooftop, chimney, attic or fascia mount. This little guy, that will not take up more than a few feet in any direction, will pull in all local and major network channels in your area such as, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox.

The RCA Yagi Antenna utilizes a cross-phase, multi-directional design that will deliver nothing short of stunning HD picture quality, noise mitigation and a beam pattern that will pick up broadcast towers from multiple directions. At well under $100 for this antenna, it goes unmatched in its class and is my top pick and it will be more than ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts.

2. 8 Element Bowtie Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna – 70 Mile Range

4K OTA Broadcasts - Element Bowtie Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna - 70 Mile RangeIf you need a little more range, then look no further than the 8 Element Bowtie Outdoor HDTV Antenna from Antennas Direct. I have a small little cottage that is 80+ miles from the nearest broadcast tower and this guy pulls those HDTV signals with ease and I can be rest assured that this antenna will be ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts. I should add that this exceeds the 70 mile range advertised and I can only surmise that this is likely due to the fact that I’m on a lake (lakes generally are flat!!!) and slightly perched up on a point. In addition, I have it mounted atop a 30′ mast with no viewable obstructions.

I should warn you that this antenna is one of the more expensive ones on the market, however, I assure you it will not disappoint. You’ll notice from the image above that it has pivot points on each side allowing you to align this antenna to multiple broadcast towers in different directions. This feature gives you maximum flexibility and is a great choice if you live in rural areas.

3. ClearStream 4 Outdoor HDTV Antenna

4K OTA Broadcasts - ClearSream HDTV Antenna

Third on my list is the ClearStream 4 Outdoor HDTV Antenna by Antennas Direct. This is another solid choice if you need a little more range than the Yagi antenna listed above. This antenna just looks cool and is a solid performer capable of pulling in high quality HDTV signal from 70 miles out and of course will be ready to receive 4K OTA Broadcasts when they’re available.

It touts itself as having the best performance of all antennas in its category which is why it ranks in the top 3 in my list. It includes the mount and all-weather mounting hardware making installation a snap. It is backed by a lifetime warranty on all parts (not too shabby) and will receive free TV from networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW, PBS, Univision, MeTV in full 1080p HD where available.

Okay, so I think we’ve covered off enough information and a good selection of antennas, both Indoor and Outdoor, in order for you to make a good decision on the type of antenna that’s going to be a good fit for you. Now, let’s talk about installing your brand new antenna so that it’s ready to receive current HD and soon to come 4K OTA Broadcasts!

Installing Your New Indoor HDTV Antenna

Installing an Indoor Antenna it is important to have realistic expectations. While I’ve listed 3 of the best indoor antennas on the market today many factors are going to affect your ability to pull in reliable, high quality HDTV channels. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when installing your new HDTV Indoor Antenna.

  • Install your Indoor Antenna on the Wall Nearest the Broadcast Tower – It goes without saying, the closer to the broadcast tower you are the better. Of course with an indoor antenna installation this decision is going to depend largely on where your television or tuner box resides. Just keep one thing in mind, closer is generally better!
  • Install your Indoor Antenna in a Window – remember, things like walls, bricks and mortar are going to have negative and adverse affects on your ability to pull in reliable, high-quality HDTV channels. Placing your indoor antenna in the window is a good choice where-ever possible and ensure that the window you are placing it on is screen free. This is more important if you have the older style metal screens because what this effectively create is something called a Faraday Cage. Without getting too technical a Faraday cage will block signals from coming in and out of your residence. Antennas placed in attics with metal roofs will also suffer from this affect and will seriously impede your ability to get free TV.
  • Install you Indoor Antenna behind the TV – if you don’t seem to be having any issues pulling in free TV, then placing your new indoor antenna directly behind your television is a nice way to get it out of site. All 3 of the Indoor Antenna listed above will easily slide in behind a TV mounted in an entertainment unit for a nice inconspicuous placement.
  • Connect the supplied coax cable linking your TV with your Indoor Antenna – using the supplied coax cable, connect one end to your Indoor Antenna (if not pre-installed) and one end to your television set.
  • Perform a Channel Scan – now it’s time to power up your television, plug in the Antenna’s Amplifier (if supplied with one) and perform a channel scan using the menu function on your TV. With any luck you’ll be watching free TV on all your favorite channels in a few short minutes. If you are not satisfied that you’re receiving the channels you should be, experiment by moving the antenna about your room and trying again.
  • Enjoy FREE TV – once you’re satisfied you are receiving an adequate number of channels for your location, sit back and enjoy FREE TV with no monthly cable bills.

Installing Your New Outdoor HDTV Antenna

Installing an outdoor antenna is a little more (okay maybe a lot more) work, however, you cannot match the high quality of free TV you will receive by moving your antenna outdoors. Above we’ve listed some top performers that should definitely be in your short-list of antennas. For a more comprehensive list of antennas me and my AntennaJunkies.com friends have rated, be sure to check out our Top Antenna Picks!

To install your new outdoor antenna, follow this simple guide:

  • Get your bearings on the broadcast towers in your area– if you’ve been reading this article then you are well aware of some of the online tools available right here on AntennaJunkies.com or on the two sites we recommended above TVFool.com and AntennaWeb.org.
  • Find the ideal location on your property to mount the antenna – typically outdoor antennas will be mounted on a roof, off a pergola, on a chimney stack, or on the peak of your house against the fascia board. All of these locations will be ideal, and additional elevation can be achieved using an antenna mast or a piece of 10 foot conduit. If you are going to mount the antenna to your roof be sure to properly seal the screws to avoid water leaks. We certainly don’t want to get free TV at the expense of a $7000 roof! That said, make sure you buy a good roof sealant or calk to seal the bolt holes and screws.
  • Unbox your Outdoor Antenna and affix it to your mounting hardware– using the supplied mounting hardware and/or mounting pole, attach your antenna by carefully reading the provided instructions. I wouldn’t completely secure up all the bolts yet, simply snug them up so that your antenna position will hold firm, but will allow you to fine-tune the direction once you perform a channel scan.
  • Align your antenna to your local broadcast tower(s) – for this it will be helpful to have a compass or at the very least download a free app on your smartphone to dial in the direction. Remember to use the tools mentioned, HDTV Channel Map, TVFool.com or AntennaWeb.org to find your specific tower coordinates.
  • Terminate and connect your coax cable – for this I recommend using a high quality RG6 cable and F-type compression type fittings and not the screw-on or push-on type. Here is a decent looking and fairly inexpensive crimping kit on Amazon, Coaxial Compression Tool Coax Cable Crimper Kit Adjustable RG6 RG59 RG11 75-5 75-7 Coaxial Cable Stripper with 10 PCS F Compression Connectors – Blue and if you’re looking for some decent cabling Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable (250 Feet, Black) – Convenient Pull-Out Box – Premium 18AWG RG6 Quad-Shielded Cable – UL Listed CL2 Rated for In-Wall Use (Part CC6QB-250). Once both ends of your cable are terminated, connect one end to the antenna and connect the other end to your TV or Tuner Box.
  • Scan for channels – now its time to power up your devices and scan for channels. This is a really great moment to experience as your FREE TV channels start populating. It truly is a sense of euphoria as you pass the 20 channel threshold. If all is well and you’re picking up everything available in your area then “bob’s your uncle”, your watching free TV in picture perfect HD. If not have someone help you tweak the antenna until you find that “sweet spot”.

Final Words Regarding 4K OTA Broadcasts

While 4K OTA Broadcasts are not currently a reality yet, now has never been a better time to cut the cable cord and start enjoying free TV now. True, once broadcast stations start transmitting using the new ATSC 3.0 standard it will most likely obsolete most of your current tuner hardware, however, companies like SiliconDust, Tablo, ChannelMaster and others will be sure to provide hardware that will be up for the 4K OTA Broadcasts challenge and be 100% compatible with the new standard.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some of my other articles today:

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my Top 10 Antenna Picks for this year and leave me a comment!