Digital switchover paves way for HD broadcasts
We've known for a while now that the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and FIVE have been looking to deliver high definition channels via Freeview, and today, Ofcom has confirmed that HD broadcasts will be available on Freeview from 2009.
In an official statement, the UK communications regulator said:
"Viewers across the UK will have the opportunity to access more television channels, including programmes broadcast in high-definition (HD), as a result of a major technology upgrade of digital terrestrial television (DTT) to be facilitated by Ofcom."
Residents in the north-west of England will be among the first to obtain the new HD services, though a HD-capable set-top-box will be a requirement, as well as a HD television.
The digital switchover is a key factor in Ofcom's major technology upgrade and viewers wanting to receive HD broadcasts will be required to wait until analogue broadcasts in their area are switched off. Many viewers therefore will be left waiting until 2012, when the last remaining analogue signals will be deactivated.
Ofcom states that the following four technological advancements are to thank for freeing up capacity and allowing for the accommodation of new services on DTT:
- Switchover capacity: Digital television switchover will allow a change in technical broadcast standards which will increase the capacity of DTT by around 20 per cent. This is called mode change.
- Efficiency improvements: Requiring broadcasters to make the most efficient use of current broadcast standards.
- Compression: This is a technology that minimises the data capacity required to transmit video and audio services that are broadcast digitally. The latest compression standard, called MPEG-4, is expected to be up to twice as efficient as the current MPEG-2 standard.
- Transmission: A new European transmission standard, called DVB-T2, will increase capacity by at least 30 per cent
High definition is a term that most are now aware of, but yet, only a small percentage of the population has utilised the technology. At present, viewers wanting to obtain HD channels do so via satellite or cable, many of which incur additional subscription charges. HD material such as movies found on Sony's Blu-ray disc are also an expensive prospect for most.
The arrival of HD via Freeview could finally bring HD to the masses.Official press release: More choice and new services on digital terrestrial TV: High-definition services to be available free-to-air