April 09, 2008

Freeview HD - DTG

A few posts ago I reported that things were hotting up on the Freeview HD front. In fact, several of the London evening papers went as far as to make the news the front page lead that evening - mis-reporting what is currently only a proposal with a long way to travel. Now that the hype has started to calm down, a more realistic timescale is emerging. The following is from The Register, and refers to comments made by the influential Digital TV Group (DTG).

[Reminder: The OFCOM proposal is that the BBC vacate Freeview multiplex B so that equipment can be upgraded to handle the upcoming DVB-T2 broadcast standard (still subject to Department for Culture, Media and Sport approval).]

"The DTG says that ..."everyone involved in the upgrade should be wary that DVB-T2 isn't even a standard on paper yet. These things always take a lot longer than people think, especially when it comes to a new technology like this, we don't think it's likely HD will be on air before 2010 or 2011.

"It took from 1995 to 1998 for the DVB-T standard to be finalised and we've had errors before. The first generation of Freeview set-top boxes didn't work very well at all."


"The DTG argues that the four channel plan should only serve as a stop-gap before a full scale terrestrial HD deployment. It says more spectrum will be needed if Freeview is to continue to compete with the multiplicity of HD services on offer from satellite and cable. The digital TV industry's past is littered with the corpses of services that had a low number of channels and were rejected by consumers, such as ONDigital and BSB. "

Interesting stuff. I guess most of us have Freeview in our houses somewhere (we've got three tuners in TVs and recorders) but HD will need additional boxes. The longer time scales make it more likely that VM will have its HD house in order long before Freeview HD is widely available. The advent of FreeSat is more imminent - details of that should emerge in the next month or two, assuming it's announced launch in the first half of this year is still on track.

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