TV viewer improvises to bring in HD signal

A Ryerson engineering student says Toronto TV viewers don’t have to buy cable to receive new high-definition channels. All they need is a coat hanger and a piece of wood.

Recently, Kien Nguyen, 22, purchased a high-definition (HD) television. However, his budget did not allow him to buy the cable options from Rogers or Bell to bring in the stations.

“So I looked up (on the Internet) and the most cost-efficient way to get HD channels,” Nguyen said, “(is) making an antenna out of coat hangers. All you need is a four-by-two and four coat hangers and there’s your antenna.”

He made the antenna by cutting two sides off the coat hangers and bending it into a V-shape. He then screwed the device into the wood and then added a balun. The balun converts the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) signal into a coaxial to use for the TV.

Nguyen, a civil engineering student at Ryerson University, is satisfied with his antenna. He said it gets about six to eight channels for free and watches all his favourite shows, including the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

He said that consumers are pressured into purchasing the cable boxes or satellite since they offer specialty channels. Rogers and Bell customers pay more than $30 per month for the digital basic package. They must also rent or buy the box or receiver, making the cost for basic cable upwards of $50 per month.

HD Cable boxes and satellite receivers cost more than $300 to own. On top of that, customers only receive pre-set channels, including time shifting of CBC, Global, CTV, CityTv, OMNI 1 and 2, the French channels and American channels NBC, ABC and CBS.

Nguyen admits that he would like to have specialty channels eventually.

“They come with specialty channels like the sports in HD… and National Geographic and Discovery and those are really interesting channels too. They would be very nice to watch in HD,” he said. “But right now it’s just not within my budget.”

He said that over-the-air channels deliver the same or better quality as the cable companies and his antenna is cost-efficient.

“You can just build a $5 antenna yourself. Or even if you don’t want to build one yourself, you can get a very cheap one for $20. … and you can actually pick up channels from the States too,” Nguyen said.