Freeview HD in 2009

Freeview viewers in some parts of the UK, who choose to upgrade their reception equipment, will be able to watch high definition TV channels as early as next year, according to media regulator Ofcom.

The launch of the HD channels is being made possible by moving channels from Multiplex B into Multiplexes 1, 2 and A. Multiplex B was allocated to the BBC at the start of Freeview in addition to the corporation's gifted capacity in Multiplex 1.

The BBC Trust will continue to be responsible for part of the capacity in Multiplex B and this is likely to be used for BBC HD. The remaining capacity will be awarded to the commercial public service broadcasters through a competitive bidding process. Ofcom is banking on both MPEG-4 and the new DVB-T2 technology that, that are eventually expected to deliver savings of up to 30 per cent of capacity.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to upgrade digital terrestrial television. It offers benefits for broadcasters – who will be able to launch new services without using any new spectrum – and viewers – who will have access to new channels and services on free to air,” said Ed Richards, chief executive, Ofcom. However, with only four channels, the DTT HD offer will still be tiny compared to the multichannel proposition on cable and satellite.

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