I know my friends in the great USA are currently this year experiencing much the same, as the US has made the switch to digital broadcasting as well. Here in Israel our own plan has taken quite a bit of time to get going, but starting this August the already operational & in testing switchover will ramp up for the general population. Analogue signals are slated to terminate in 2010.. Or at least this is the theory.
What does it all mean?
If you subscribe to cable not much will change for the time being, you already have access to digital TV and of course for a substantial premium HD programming which is fairly limited still. However, if you are using an antenna or the infamous rabbit ears and picking up signals currently you will need to go digital. The good news is you will benefit from digital picture and sound and it will be free. The chief requirement however, a set top box to capture and input the signal to your TV. Newer flatscreens with built in digital tuners should be able to skip the set top box part. (This needs to be checked, many don’t have built in tuners.)
Getting a set top box will require a one time fee for purchase, estimated to be a few hundred shekels. Afterward you will benefit from Channels 1, 2, 10, and the Knesset channel (Israeli C-Span) for free. Not bad. Unfortunately for Israeli Ruskies, the Russian channel will not be part of the Free to Air signal currently. By law, all the set top boxes must be HD ready, which means there is a good chance we may see Channel 1 in HD shortly and others as well if your TV is capable of HD resolutions.
For the geeks, there are cool gadgets too. You can pick up USB FTA receivers which will allow you to pick up the free signals on a PC or laptop, theoretically on the go too for all you cafe lovers. Seems like a good deal for everyone, except of course HOT (Cable) & YES (Sat provider) whom are both less than enthused fearing cancellations by current customers not subbed to massive packages with loads of extra channels.
I’d link to all this, but I haven’t seen much info yet in English on the matter. Hopefully we’ll see some more soon.