Some 28 per cent of the population are ignorant of the development, which has been billed as the most exciting change in television since colour was introduced 30 years ago. More than 20 per cent believe digital television, which will mean many more channels, will start in 2001 or after, rather than this autumn. And nearly 60 per cent know nothing about set-top boxes - the equipment needed in homes to receive the new channels.
The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted for Radio Rentals, shows a public largely unprepared for the system, which uses digital rather than analogue signals. Eighty per cent did not realise that analogue television will eventually be switched off.
The survey results could concern British companies which will be spending around pounds 32bn on launching digital television.
Mike Ryan, of Radio Rentals, said: "There is a lot of consumer confusion about what digital will or will not deliver."