Over the air DTV is about to get better hopefully. The FCC last week voted to allow stations to begin broadcasting in 4k ultra high def (UHD) on the ATSC 3.0 standard. The downside is this is not compatible with the existing ATSC standard, now called 1.0. So less than 10 years after ditching analog another costly conversion is in the works. I for one am hopeful it resolves a number of issues with the initial conversion to ATSC. I really couldn't believe how bad the signal was with ATSC. Portable devices, which had been increasing in popularity before the switch, were essentially all junked. There are very few portable DTV sets manufactured because they aren't very portable with the required antenna. You can stream with a portable device but I never understood why broadcasting seemed to turn it's back on a clearly growing market. Digital radio works great in my car for Sirius XM and HD Radio but DTV would constantly pixelate and fall off the digital cliff. Supposedly a backward compatible 2.0 standard was addressing these shortcomings but was eclipsed by 3.0 prior to roll out with it's included internet capabilities that will allow more targeted advertising, good or bad. I've read claims that the Cleveland and Raleigh test stations could be picked up reliably in basements with rabbit ears 30 miles away from the tower. Hopefully that is true.
To alleviate concerns over the transition each broadcaster has to maintain an ATSC 1.0 signal for at least 5 years after they begin UHD broadcasts. What will likely happen is one tower will end up being a "lighthouse" where up to 10 low definition 1.0 signals can broadcast from. Since paying your competition to broadcast for you is problematic a consortium has been started by major broadcasters Cox, Fox, Graham, Hearst, Meredith, NBC (including Telemundo), Nexstar, Raycom, Scripps, Tegna and Univision. Phoenix has been announced as a test market starting this spring. Many of those companies own stations in the market and there are only a few stations there moving during the first phase of the "digital repack". The digital repack will remove UHF channels 38-51 from broadcasting by 2020. The 600 MHz band was auctioned off earlier, mostly to cellular providers. Channel 37 is reserved for radio astronomy use and will act as a guard band to prevent interference between broadcast TV and mobile phones. When channel 52-69 was removed during the digital conversion some stations remaining on ch 51, such as KPPX in Phoenix, caused interference to T-Mobile subscribers on what had been ch 52. KPPX moved to ch 31 in the past year to address this. ATSC allows virtual channel numbering that in many cases map to a different channel so after a quick rescan the tuner will point to 31 when you punch in 51.
At any rate I'm hoping I can finally watch TV again over the air without the screen pixelating to black a few times during each show. I live in Phoenix and cannot tune Fox on KSAZ ch 10 or NBC on KPNX ch 12. Both were watchable during the transition when they simulcast in DTV on UHF stations (KSAZ on 31 and KPNX on 36). They both chose to move the digital signal back to their long time homes after the transition. VHF suffers from multipath distortion, low band VHF in particular. On analog TV this usually wasn't a big problem and mostly only noticeable as image ghosting. When I was in college KNAZ ch 2 in Flagstaff had severe ghosting from the signal reflecting off of Mt. Elden. Something similar happened in the early 70's during the WTC construction to Manhattan residents trying to watch the big VHF stations. They temporarily had UHF repeaters to overcome this. I live downtown and all the tall buildings, plus one directly between me and the towers makes even high band VHF unwatchable, although I can get PBS on KAET ch 8 if I do enough Ouija board antenna vodoo. For now I can watch the low def simulcast of KSAZ from their sister station KUTP ch 26 (virtual 45). KPNX has no similar arrangement as they don't own another station in the market. I'm hoping the new broadcast standard with higher error correction will end these problems.