The majority of viewers will come into coverage at the same time that they go through digital switchover – including viewers in Manchester in December 2009 and those in Cardiff, who will get Freeview HD by the end of March 2010. For the 7% of the UK population who switched before December 2009, a retrofit programme will bring them into coverage before the end of November 2010.
New DVB-T2 technology will deliver an increase in capacity of 67% to the BBC’s Multiplex B, efficiently creating the space needed for UK public service broadcasters’ HD transmissions. The UK will be the first country in the world to launch this new standard, and its successful implementation is the result of pioneering work by the BBC in collaboration with partners including Ofcom, Arqiva, Siemens and receiver manufacturers. To view Freeview HD, audiences will need equipment containing this new technology. Freeview HD receivers (set-top boxes, digital television recorders and integrated televisions) will be available from early 2010.
From January 2010, viewers will be able to use the Freeview website to find out when HD services will be available at their postcode. The BBC is also working closely with Digital UK to ensure that information about Freeview HD is made available as part of digital switchover communications.
Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s chief operating officer, said: "This is a terrific step forward, and it’s a great achievement that the BBC and its partners have been able to work together to overcome some really difficult technical challenges to bring HD to the Freeview platform through world-leading innovation. We’re really excited about the prospect of seeing BBC HD and HD channels from the other public service broadcasters on Freeview next year."
Ilse Howling, Freeview’s Managing Director, said: "This is great news for the millions of Freeview homes and viewers who are looking forward to getting high definition with no subscription next year."
Richard Lindsay-Davies, Director General of the Digital TV Group (DTG), the organisation that publishes the technical specification for Freeview and Freeview HD, said: "This is a landmark moment in UK broadcasting history. The launch of Freeview HD consolidates the UK’s position as a global leader in the deployment of digital television services.
While this is a fantastic technical achievement the success of any service is defined by the consumer experience. The World Cup in 2010 will be a key driver for Freeview HD take-up and broadcasters, platform operators and the consumer electronics industry have worked hard to ensure that it can be enjoyed in high definition on the Freeview platform."
1.5% of the population are unable to receive any Freeview services; these audience members have the option of using the Freesat service.
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