Although Freeview HD is far from being a BBC exclusive, the Corporation obviously has a lot of involvement and influence over its rollout, so it's good to see an update on proceedings on the BBC Internet Blog (well worth subscribing to) from the BBC Operations Group head of distribution technology, Graham Plumb.

He writes that the plans is still to launch Freeview HD on 2nd December at the Winter Hill transmitter which serves Manchester and Liverpool.

The London Crystal Palace transmitter is also due to be upgraded in December, despite the fact that digital switchover isn't due until 2012.

According to remarks made to James at Electric Pig last week, Toshiba has sided with Freeview HD and will build the new standard into TVs due to launch by 2010.

Product manager for Toshiba's UK TV operation, Andrew Line, said that Toshiba had always planned to support Freeview HD. As an added blow, he suggested that the company would not be making TVs with integrated Freesat receivers.

Though Panasonic has had the lion's share of Freesat-integrated HDTVs to date, it had seemed likely that LG would also create Freesat IDTVs.

freeview_logo.gifThe idea of getting Freeview HD in time for the 2010 World Cup isn't new, but it got another mention this week at DVB in Berlin.

Head of distribution technology at BBC Distribution, Graham Plumb, said that it looked likely that between 30 and 40 per cent of the UK population could have access to high definition on Freeview in time for the World Cup. This probably represents the population that will have already switched to digital by then.

Digital Spy is reporting that Ofcom has confirmed that there will be enough capacity on digital terrestrial TV by mid-2010 to launch a fourth high definition channel.

This new capacity will be available on multiplex B, with Five, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Teletext all eligible to apply for the fourth HD public service slot.

On the technical side, Ofcom outlined three possible capacity scenarios under which all services on the multiplex would have to operate: a low capacity of 34Mbps with 30Mbps available for video streams, a mid capacity with 36Mbps of which 32.3Mbps is available for video, and an upper capacity also allowing 36Mbps but using the more efficient HE-AAC audio codec and thus offering more space for the HD video streams. Ofcom suggested that the upper capacity would be the most likely option.

Ofcom said that it was "satisfied that it will be possible to support 4 HD services on multiplex B with acceptable quality before the end of 2010... based on the assumption that the latest generation H.264 video encoding and statistical multiplexing equipment will be used when the fourth service is launched and a DVB-T2 profile which provides in excess of 34Mbps is adopted".

(Via Digital Spy

freeview_logo.gifIn a grand-sounding consultation paper entitled "Temporary assignment of UHF analogue interleaved frequencies", Ofcom is considering the possibility of large cities in the UK, including London, gaining access to high definition over Freeview, despite their official digital switchover date being two or more years down the line.

Though the Granada TV region will see analogue switchoff, and hence more spectrum available for Freeview HD, from late 2009, other regions are being phased in gradually until 2012. London and the South East are the two of the last regions to be switched.

The BBC has applied to Ofcom to temporarily use special frequencies for high definition broadcasts until the switchover is completed in 2012. If approved, it would ensure that many more British consumers could access high definition content, including the 2010 World Cup.

freeview.gifReports suggest that the 2010 World Cup, being held in South Africa, will be available on Freeview in areas which have already switched over (most likely Granada, Wales, Scotland, and the West Country).

This isn't surprising given that both the BBC and ITV are already broadcasting select sporting events in high definition, and that the South African Broadcasting Company is ready to push out HD broadcasts.

(Via HD Report)

freesat_logo.pngResponding to last week's news that Ofcom has awarded two more licences to broadcast in HD on Freeview, Freesat has said that it offers much better UK coverage and programme choice.

An official statement read:

"With Freesat, subscription free high definition (HD) is already a reality for the UK. We believe our no strings offer of over 130 channels plus great HD programmes from the BBC and ITV, for a one off payment of as little as £120, is leading the way in making HD the standard that viewers will come to expect in the future."

ofcom_logo.jpgOfcom has announced that it has granted licences to broadcast in high definition on digital terrestrial TV to Channel 4, S4C, ITV plc, STV, and UTV.

These public service broadcasters will now join the BBC in launching three high definition services on DTT, expected to begin in the Granada region from Autumn 2009, and with complete UK coverage by 2012.

Ofcom has also said that a fourth HD service could be launched on DTT by 2010, with more details of a licence award coming towards the end of the year. Channel 5, perhaps?

bbchd.jpgThe BBC is planning to broadcast its first regular high definition programmes over the DVB-T2 platform by November next year, according to Catherine Smadja, head of strategy at the BBC.

One multiplex will be upgraded to DVD-T2 and MPEG-4, carrying the BBC HD service and two or three others. Eventually, as the analogue signal is switched off across the country, the service should be available to 98.5% of the UK population.

Smadja said that DVB-T2 was "an absolute necessity".

Two more terrestrial channels have submitted applications to broadcast high definition content on the Freeview HD service, expected to begin rolling out as digital switchover progresses.

ITV would use one of the three Ofcom-allocated slots to broadcast a simulcast of ITV1 during "primetime" 6pm-11pm each evening. This would include a single national service for England and Wales, plus branded streams for Scotland and Northern Ireland (presumably to keep the likes of STV happy).

A lot of that content will simply be upscaled, thought ITV expects that between 40 and 50 percent of original programming will be made in high definition, increasing to 60-65% by 2012, and approaching three-quarters by 2014.

freeview.gifLast week, the BBC began test transmissions for high definition content on Freeview. Trials from its Guildford transmitter use the DVB-T2 standard, an advanced, higher capacity version of the DVB-T system currently used.

Justin Mitchell, who leads the BBC's DVB-T2 modem development team, said he was pleased how quickly the key technology had been put in place, and that these tests were a big step forward in enabling full HD terrestrial broadcasts on Freeview by the end of next year.

freeview.gifThe major terrestrial broadcasters have been signed up for months, but finally Ofcom has laid out its proposals for bringing free-to-air high definition channels to an upgraded Freeview platform.

In certain regions, three high definition channels could appear on Freeview as soon as next year, with up to four available in all areas after the digital switchover is complete in 2012.

One channel would go to the BBC Trust, with the other three going to commercial public service broadcasters after a bidding process. The applications would be judged on their efficient use of spectrum, the contribution to public service broadcasting and a contribution to the range and diversity of TV.

The UK's four main terrestrial broadcasters — the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Five — have signed a non-binding agreement which could see their high definition offerings appearing on Freeview before the digital switchover is complete in 2012.

BBC HD (approved yesterday), ITV HD, and Channel 4 HD, could all be in place by late 2009 or early 2010, with Five HD coming on board when capacity is available.

This agreement includes the development of new technologies to increase the available capacity on Freeview, and a rearrangement of some of the existing Freeview channels.

The proposals would need to be agreed by the BBC Trust, and Ofcom.

In Ofcom's Annual Lecture delivered at the beginning of the week, Chief Executive Ed Richards defended the regulator's views on high definition TV via Freeview.

He said that Ofcom was "platform neutral and pro-competition," and added that, "we have not been persuaded of the argument that the best way to maximise the social and economic benefit of the released spectrum is simply to gift some or all of the released spectrum to broadcasters."

Moving to propositions and timescales, he said that, “For some time now Ofcom has been developing a proposal which would enable us to clear an entire multiplex and convert this to an improved compression and transmission standard.”

This could see limited high definition services coming onto Freeview as early as the end of 2009, regardless of the state of digital switchover happening around the country.

(Via Broadband TV News)

BBC Trust greenlights terrestrial BBC HD channel

BBCHD.pngTerrestrial HD could be around the corner after the BBC Trust has called for BBC HD to be launched 'as soon as possible' following the conclusion of its public value test.

The Trust's assessment concluded that the service would "deliver a medium to high level of public value," and it was supported by Ofcom's market impact assessment released earlier today.

Both Ofcom and the BBC Trust have stated that a full nine-hour broadcast of BBC HD on digital terrestrial TV would be preferable to a four-hour overnight period.

Ofcom reveal plans for terrestrial HDTV

It's been a fractious few months, but UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom has finally revealed its plans for terrestrial HDTV services delivered through an aerial.

Apparently, Ofcom has said that it's possible to support four high-definition channels on the existing digital terrestrial television (DTT) network. Ofcom is expected to enforce a reshuffling of the DTT capacity with a partial move to MPEG-4 and/or DVB-T2 video compression for the new services.

Ofcom dismiss 'HD For All' plans

hdtv-logo-lg.jpgIt seems that UK public broadcasters will face a battle to reserve part of the soon to be available broadcasting spectrum for free-to-air HD channels from the government.

We recently reported that the lobby group, HD For All, was planning talks with government regulator, Ofcom, to propose the spectrum could be used to broadcast HD channels on the Freeview digital platform. But, comments from Ofcom's Philip Rutnam suggest that it's unlikely to succeed.

ITV boss wants HD for all


ITV%20logo.jpgITV boss, Michael Grade, has taken a step closer in his crusade to get HDTV services to as many homes as possible. He's rallying support to challenge the Government's plans to sell off the analogue broadcast spectrum and use it instead to supply millions of homes with high-definition.

Grade recently met with members of the HD for All campaign, a collective of broadcasters and consumer electronics companies including the BBC, Channel 4, Five and the UK heads of Dixons, Sony, Samsung and Toshiba, to discuss plans. They want to challenge the planned sale of the spectrum and use their powers for good instead of letting it fall into the evil hands of the mobile phone networks.

Via Sunday Telegraph

bbchd.jpgThe BBC Trust has just launched a public value test for the proposal of a permanent high definition BBC TV channel. This will include two periods of public consultation, and aims to determine the public value of such a service, and its market impact.

The current proposal is for a single, mixed-genre channel that takes 50% of its content from BBC One, 30% from BBC Two, and the remaining 20% from the BBC's digital channels.

BBC HD Freeview trial to end on May 31

bbchd.jpgThe BBC is ending its high definition test channel on the digital terrestrial platform on May 31, which has been broadcasting from London’s Crystal Palace transmitter since June 2006. The successful HD test was always intended to end after a few months and, indeed, ran longer than originally planned as BBC engineers conducted additional trials with different transmission methods, such as bitrate alterations.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and five all took part in the trial, though the commercial stations’ tests went off air at the end of 2006. The broadcasters were granted a special temporary licence by the regulator Ofcom. Special set-top boxes made by ADB/i-CAN and Humax were issued to 450 volunteers in the Greater London area. These carried the necessary MPEG4/AVC decoding technology as well as an HDMI output.

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