The digital switchover will begin in Hawke's Bay and the West Coast in September 2012, with the rest of the country following suit in three stages before the final deadline of November 2013.
Comms and IT Minister Steven Joyce said that digital television technology makes much more efficient use of radio spectrum than analogue technology, freeing up a large amount of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for new uses.
"We expect this spectrum will be ideal for 4G mobile technologies, which will give New Zealanders access to faster mobile broadband services and with improved coverage,” he said.
Households that have Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear, are already set for digital switchover.
It’s important to note that while other viewers don’t need to buy a new television, they may need to buy a set-top box and a new aerial or satellite dish.
You can find out more information on the changes here, including a detailed FAQ about what equipment you need.
Vodafone welcomed the decision and says that it will pave the way for a new era in telecommunications.
“The decision means the spectrum currently allocated to free-to-air TV signals will become available for telcos to deliver the next generation of ultra-fast broadband over mobile, something Vodafone has been championing for many years,” it said in a statement today.
Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman added that 70% of New Zealand households are already watching digital television.