OVERVIEW All caravan antennas are a compromise on what is the best antenna for a particular transmitter. If you want the perfect antenna that will pick up perfect reception ALL the time, pack the car and caravan with more than 7,000 antennas because that’s how many transmitters there are in Australia. Oops, no room for you in the car? Maybe you had better stay home if you expect perfect reception all the time. So if you want to travel, you will need to compromise. The tricky part is how do you choose an antenna that is right for you. The truth of the matter is ONLY YOU CAN MAKE THAT DECISION. But we can make it easier for you by giving you some points to consider.
VHF and UHF The first thing you need to consider is the type of reception that you are going to encounter while travelling in Australia. Without getting too technical, TV transmission comes on two types of frequency – VHF and UHF. The VHF frequency is the predominant frequency used in each of the capital cities. The best antenna for these frequencies is a very big antenna. Some of the broad-ranging transmitters like Canberra, Coonabarabran, Bundaberg/Maryborough also transmit on VHF because it travels long distances better than the UHF frequencies.
Generally, the smaller towns that have their own repeaters use UHF. The best antenna for UHF is a much smaller antenna. Whether we are discussing analogue OR digital, the considerations are still the same. There will still be VHF and UHF when Australia goes all digital.
VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL Then to confuse the traveller even more is the fact that TV reception is transmitted on the vertical and on the horizontal. Most of the broad coverage transmitters in country areas have vertically polarised TV reception because it travels further with less break up of reception. Another reason for the use of reception on the vertical is so that it won’t clash with reception from another transmitter that is reasonably close e.g., the Noosa transmitter has UHF frequency vertically polarised so that it doesn’t clash with the Sunshine Coast UHF horizontally polarised reception. ‘But wait, there is more’. Some transmitters use both vertical AND horizontal – Orange, Shepparton, Port Macquarie and more. As you can see, there is much to consider if you want to research the topic thoroughly.
DIRECTIONAL and OMNI-DIRECTIONAL Now to the topic of antennas. Basically, caravan antennas can be put into two categories – directional and omni-directional. The names themselves explain the difference between these two types – one you point to the transmitter, one you don’t have to point. The directional antennas can be further categorized into folded dipoles, yagi and phased arrays.
AMPLIFIERS Many caravan parks are situated low down beside the sea/creek/dam and have shady trees. TV reception is challenged by hills, buildings, trees and distance. To overcome these challenges it is possible to add an amplifier (booster). Some antennas have the amplifier built-in. And here is another decision point – to boost or not to boost. So for the caravanner that wants the best antenna maybe these quick facts will help with the research.
- 45% of reception is vertically polarised – nearly half of these use horizontal polarisation AS WELL.
- 87% of reception is UHF.
- Most caravan parks are in areas where you need an amplifier.
YOUR CHECKLIST If you have stuck with the reading so far, congratulations on your committment to researching the topic thoroughly. Maybe this checklist will help further when considering a number of antennas that will meet your needs. Before you fill in the checklist, answer these questions:-
- Is it vitally important that you watch your favourite programs?
- Or do you want just the news and weather and maybe something else?
- Do you go to the same place each year? (Do your research on what antenna suits that place)
- Or do you go to many different places?
- Do you want the cheapest?
- Or do you want one that gives value for money?
- Is it Directional or Omni-directional?
- Does it have Vertical and Horizontal aerials?
- Does it cater for both at the same time?
- Does it have an amplifier built-in or does it have to be added?
- Is it easy to store?
- Do I want to mount it on the roof or a pole?
- Am I getting value for money?
Hope this helps with making your INFORMED decision on which antenna to buy.