High-definition digital Freeview channels will be made available in parts of the UK from next year, according to the latest Ofcom report. Four new HD channels will be introduced by 2012, with three available from next year. These will be readied for the digital switchover of the Granada region – which includes Liverpool and Manchester – and will then be made available in subsequent regions. The announcement comes at the end of an advisory period, following an initial proposal last Nov.
Of the new channels, one will be reserved for the BBC while the others will be auctioned to the commercial public service broadcasters – ITV, Channel 4, Five and Welsh station S4C. The HD channels will only be available to those with HD-ready TVs and new HD-compatible set-top boxes.
The changes will be brought about with the upgrade of the UK’s digital terrestrial TV (DTT) network. The switch from analogue to digital will increase the capacity of DTT by approximately 20%, while a more effective compression standard, MPEG-4 is to replace the existing MPEG-2. Alongside this upgrade, a new European transmission standard called DVB-T2 is also set to increase capacity by roughly 30%.
The channels will also be reorganised. Currently public service broadcasting in the UK runs off three multiplexes: bandwidth capacity which carries stations. One of these, Multiplex B, will be reserved for the HD channels, with the existing channels shifting to other multiplexes.
The upgrades are still awaiting final Government approval.