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Freeview HD launches

Freeview has officially launched its new high definition (HD) service.

It will initially feature high definition channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel4, as well as Freeview’s existing standard definition channels.

S4C launched its Freeview HD channel ‘Clirlun’ in Wales on April 30th and the BBC is also set to add an additional HD service by the end of the year.

4.5 million homes will receive Freeview HD coverage including Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff

World Cup

Around 50% of UK homes will be able to receive Freeview HD in time for the World Cup in June and  coverage will hit 60% by the end of the year.

However, as recently as two years ago, it was doubted that any of this would be possible at all.

The problem was one of size. TV broadcasts rely on radio airwaves – technically known as spectrum – to make it into your living room.

This is a finite natural resource, in high demand. And HD is spectrum hungry, demanding roughly four times as much as standard definition. In short, there was not enough bandwidth available to broadcast HD on digital terrestrial TV.

Digital dividend

Initially some broadcasters believed that the only way to get HD onto digital terrestrial TV was by using more spectrum. Some argued that they should use the ‘digital dividend’, which is being created as the UK switches off its analogue signals and moves across to digital.

However, this is prime territory for new and innovative services, such as mobile broadband, which promise to deliver huge benefits to consumers. If this wasn’t available then there would be no HD on the terrestrial platform, said some commentators.

Step forward, Greg Bensberg, Director of Spectrum Policy at Ofcom. Greg believed that there was an alternative way, which did not rely on acquiring new spectrum. This proved to be an ingenious solution.

‘Fortunately, we saw an opportunity in upgrading the digital terrestrial platform to new and efficient technologies,’ said Greg.

MPEG-4 and DVB-T2

This included using two new broadcasting standards – known as MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 – which allowed much greater compression of information, meaning that HD programmes could be broadcast using much less bandwidth.

Behind the scenes, Greg and a team of technical experts worked on a complex plan, which involved reorganising existing TV services to free up space for new HD services that used MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 technology. This has enabled the broadcasters to successfully launch HD on Freeview.

When will I get Freeview HD?

You can see when your TV region will get HD on Freeview by clicking on this link to the Freeview site.

What equipment will I need?

You will need a Freeview HD box which will then need to be connected to a TV that can show HD pictures. These TVs display the HD ready logo.

TVs with built in Freeview HD have just been introduced this month and Freeview+ HD recorders will also be available later this Spring.

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