ElectronicsWeekly: The UK’s four major broadcasters have called for HDTV to be run on the terrestrial TV ahead of the region’s analogue switch off in 2012.
Trials of HDTV on terrestrial by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five have just finished in London, and nearly all (86%) of trialists expected to see HD services within three years, well before analogue switch-off. Nine out of ten believed that the four broadcasters should be at the forefront of HD developments.
“It’s clear even from this small trial that audiences increasingly expect us and the other major broadcasters to offer high quality HD programming on Freeview in the future,” said Seetha Kumar, head of HDTV at the BBC.
The problem is that HDTV takes four to five times the bandwidth of existing standard definition digital TV. The BBC has demonstrated terrestrial HD at 10Mbit/s with MPEG4, and the trial used standard MPEG4 HDTV boxes from Humax and ADB with digital terrestrial TV (DTT) front ends.
The Digital TV Group (DTG) is investigating the use of a polarising approach that could be used to deliver HD services alongside existing broadcasts. This is one of the options or the second generation of the DTT specification by the international DVB standards group, but would require a new radio receiver chip. This is not likely until 2009 at the earliest.
“Technically, the trial has more than fulfilled our expectations. All major technical hurdles are behind us,” said Simon Fell, director of technology at ITV Consumer.
However, the likelihood of HD services before switch-off is low. “We have previously said that the spectrum allocation [after analogue switch-off] will be market led so if there is a demand for HD then that will be what it is used for,” said a Government spokeswoman.