Freeview HD goes live in the UK today – brilliant, you might think, but don’t get too carried away just yet. At the moment you can’t buy a Freeview HD receiver, so no-one can watch it – not so brilliant after all.
Don’t feel too disheartened though. It won’t be long before your basking in all the free HD programming that your heart could possibly desire. Well, BBC and ITV HD at least, thanks to HD tuners just around the corner.
The double switch-on of two transmitters today means the air around you is buzzing with HD telly. There’s a high-powered transmitter at Winter Hill that covers Manchester and parts of the north-west and a less impressive sounding low-powered one at Crystal Palace that caters for London and a bit of the south-east.
The new transmitters mean that Freeview HD already covers 22% of British population. That’s pretty impressive, and means the UK’s right on track to deliver the goods when receivers go on sale next year.
The technical launch, as Freeview bigwigs are calling it, makes Britain the first nation in the world to operate the new DVB-T2 standard. Yay, go us! But in itself, that causes problems. Since the UK is the only country using DVB-T2, few manufacturers are geared up to provide kit to go with it.
The official consumer launch is set for the first half of next year, by which time there will be widespread availability of Freeview HD boxes in the shops. At least, that’s what we’re told.
With more transmitter switch-ons planned, it’s expected that by the time the World Cup in South Africa comes around in June, 50% of the country will be able to watch England get knocked out on penalties in the quarter-finals in glorious high definition.
BBC HD and ITV1 HD are the first high-def channels that are going live and it’s expected they’ll be joined by Channel 4 and Five in 2010. Check out when your area will be covered with a full roll-out breakdown here.