what does QAM mean for me?
QAM is the name of a technology that will usually allow you to receive HD programing thru a basic cable subscription with out a set top box. This means you can just get the basic cable service for $15-$35 per month, and still be able to get HD programing without having to rent that box that your neighbor has to have on his TV to get HDTV. How do you do this… I will tell you…first, lets brush up on the ways to get HDTV again… There are really 5 basic ways you can get HDTV…. the diagram below shows these basic 5 ways…. QAM is number 2 on the list below…
QAM (say it out loud like kwaːm) is another fun acronym you really don’t need to know… all you need to know is that everyone just calls it QAM… if you must know what it stands for google it.
Anyway… QAM is like a hidden HDTV feed, put out by various US cable companies that they do not advertise… why do they put out this hidden feed out… because the US goverment, specifically the FCC, requires by law that if a cable company carries a local broadcast station that can be received over the air in your area by digital antenna, then they must also carry the digital version of that same station unencrypted… so the cable companies do this by sending QAM signals thru their coaxial cable line… hoping no one will catch on to this technology and pay them extra for their set top boxes and higher cable tiers that provide HDTV… they are required to provide the signal, but not required to advertise this signal, so they obviously don’t… you can get this hidden signal though with the right newer TV or QAM tuner.
still a little confused… here is an example of why and what QAM is…
Here in New England, Boston’s Channel 5 (WCVB) has a digital high-def signal that broadcasts from their station in Boston in an HDTV format. If someone has a digital antenna tuned to that channel they can get this free digital broadcast over the air from channel 5….
Now that same channel is picked up by Comcast in my area… if I pay for their basic cable (channels 1-70 with no set top box) I get the dumbed down analog version of channel 5 in standard def that comes with my basic cable tier… but since this channel is also broadcasting digitally in my area, Comcast is required by law to also provide me with the same unencrypted digital High-def version of the channel that I could get if I had a digital antenna. So the cable companies came up with the idea of the QAM signal… this way they would not have to hand out free cable boxes to everyone, and as long as the consumer (thats us) had a QAM tuner they would comply with the FCC law… Since they are not required to advertise this technology they are banking on consumers (that’s us again) not knowing about QAM tuners and instead calling the cable companies every time to upgrade our cable package and get set-top boxes to receive HD content.
So how do I get this “hidden signal”… well some computer tuners and more importantly some newer TV’s have QAM tuners built into them (refer to your TV manual or TV manufacture’s website to confirm). This means if you bought a new TV with a built in QAM tuner, and have a basic cable package you will most likely be able to get this hidden HDTV signal. To know for sure play around with the menu on your TV and look for something that says signal and / or QAM… or look at the manual that came with your TV on how to utilize the QAM signal in your TV. Another scenario where this could come in handy is if you are upgrading your old kitchen TV, or the bedroom TV to a newer HDTV… if you buy one with a QAM tuner you can set it up in your bedroom without having to rent another cable box from the cable company… simply unplug the basic cable from your old TV and plug it into your new QAM tuner HDTV.
QAM channels might appear differently in various TV’s and media systems… here is what my QAM channels look like on my media center guide… at the top of my screen shot you can see my basic cable channels that I would get if I didn’t have a QAM tuner, they have 2 digits and are all analog (history channel on 66, travel channel on 67, etc..). Below them are a few of my QAM channels I also get with my QAM tuner. My guide shows these QAM channels with 4 digits for some reason in a 1000 series…probably to differentiate my QAM channels from the regular channels… For instance, the digital version of Boston’s channel 5 (WCVB) is 5.1… My media center guide does not want me to get confused with the regular analog version of channel 5 so it puts a 10 in front of the channel to make it have 4 digits, hence channel 1051 in my guide… I am telling you this because if you get a new TV with a QAM tuner it might do something similar with the channel numbers…
So that is QAM in a nut shell.. comment with any questions or if you think I could re-word things better.