Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said last week that equipment and installation would be provided free for the elderly and the disabled, but concern is growing that households already receiving digital TV may face additional costs owing to the need to convert other sets and video equipment.
The department estimates that such conversion will cost £80 to £190 per device, based on set-top boxes costing £40-£80 and indoor aerials at £30. It also indicated that 10 per cent of houses will need to convert an outside aerial at a whacking cost of around £570.
Households that upgrade the first TV set to Sky's Freesat service would pay from £230-£340, the department said.
Figures from Ofcom suggest that 63 per cent of the country already has digital TV access.
Colin Tinto, chief technology officer at Home Media Networks, which develops media center software, said: "We found that very few people need to upgrade their aerials, meaning that the set-top box is the user's only cost.
"For homes with more than one TV a set-top box is not the only solution. Some TV tuner cards for PCs can be purchased more cheaply than a set-top box.
"By using additional third-party software the consumer can view TV schedules and record hundreds of hours of TV, all for less than £100.
"One of the main reasons that the government wants to switch everyone to digital is to free up the radio spectrum which will allow it license this space, as it did with 3G, making billions for the Treasury.
"With this additional cash, we suggest that the government should provide all homes with set-top boxes to ease the cost of households turning to digital programming."
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