The digital television changeover is coming and for those who haven't got the gear they need, it pays to shop around, a study shows.

Consumer magazine looked at the costs of buying and installing a UHF aerial or satellite dish and the installation costs for a set-top box.

The research found that the costs varied widely between regions and depending on what was required.

The national manager of Going Digital, Greg Harford, encouraged people to shop around if they were considering paying someone to install an aerial or satellite dish.


Also, some people could go digital without technical assistance because installing a set-top box could be no harder than setting up a new DVD player or some other piece of home theatre, he said.

The digital swapover begins at the end of September in the Hawkes Bay and the West Coast with the rest of the South Island following in April, in the lower North Island next September and finally the upper North Island in December next year. More than 80 per cent of households have already gone digital.

"For those people still to go digital now is the time to start looking at your options and decide how you are going to go digital. The new price guide will help with the decision-making and give an indication of what the costs could be," said Mr Harford.

At the start of the year, the Government said it would help people who could not afford to make the swap to digital or those who needed physical or technical help.

To be eligible, people must be watching only analogue television and be:

75 or over with a community services card; or

Receiving an invalid's benefit or a veteran's pension; or

Former recipients of an invalid's benefit or veteran's pension who have converted to New Zealand Superannuation.

The package will provide a set-top box, an aerial or satellite dish if necessary, installation, training and access to a technical support line. It will support local businesses around the country, using local installers.

Broadcasting is going digital to free up space on the radio spectrum which can then be used for telecommunications, says Going Digital.

People who want to watch TV after their region goes digital will need a set-top box or built-in receiver and a UHF aerial or satellite dish.