n current practice, high-definition television (HDTV), which is usually used over DTV, uses one of two formats: 1280 × 720 pixels in progressive scan mode (abbreviated 720p) or 1920 × 1080 pixels in interlace mode (1080i). Each of these utilizes a 16:9 aspect ratio. (Some televisions are capable of receiving an HD resolution of 1920 × 1080 at a 60 Hz progressive scan frame rate — known as 1080p60 — but this format is not standard and no broadcaster is able to transmit these signals over the air at acceptable quality yet.)
Standard definition TV, by comparison, may use one of several different formats taking the form of various aspect ratios, depending on the technology used in the country of broadcast. For 4:3 aspect-ratio broadcasts, the 640 × 480 format is used in NTSC countries, while 720 × 576 (rescaled to 768 × 576) is used in PAL countries. For 16:9 broadcasts, the 704 × 480 (rescaled to 848 × 480) format is used in NTSC countries, while 720 × 576 (rescaled to 1024 × 576) is used in PAL countries. However, broadcasters may choose to reduce these resolutions to save bandwidth (e.g., many DVB-T channels in the United Kingdom use a horizontal resolution of 544 or 704 pixels per line).The perceived quality of such programming is surprisingly acceptable because of interlacing—the effective vertical resolution is halved to 288 lines.
Each DTV channel is permitted to be broadcast at a data rate up to 19 megabits per second, or 2.375 megabytes per second. However, the broadcaster does not need to use this entire bandwidth for just one broadcast channel. Instead the broadcast can be subdivided across several video subchannels of varying quality and compression rates, including non-video datacasting services that allow one-way high-bandwidth streaming of data to computers.
A broadcaster may opt to use a standard-definition digital signal instead of an HDTV signal, because current convention allows the bandwidth of a DTV channel (or "multiplex") to be subdivided into multiple subchannels, providing multiple feeds of entirely different programming on the same channel. This ability to provide either a single HDTV feed or multiple lower-resolution feeds is often referred to as distributing one's "bit budget" or multicasting. This can sometimes be arranged automatically, using a statistical multiplexer (or "stat-mux"). With some implementations, image resolution may be less directly limited by bandwidth; for example in DVB-T, broadcasters can choose from several different modulation schemes, giving them the option to reduce the transmission bitrate and make reception easier for more distant or mobile viewers.