Ofcom has unveiled plans that would allow HD channels to be made available over DTT as early as 2009. The announcement comes less than 24 hours after the four major terrestrial broadcasters: the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five announced their own plans to use DTT for new HD channels.
The non-binding memorandum of understanding would see BBC HD, ITV HD and Channel 4 HD launch their HD services in late 2009/early 2010. Forever the technical laggard, Five HD would launch soon afterwards as capacity becomes available. There is suspicion that the announcement, coming shortly after the approval of BBC HD and ahead of Ofcom’s own announcement, was timed to take the wind out of the regulators sails.
The Ofcom plan, detailed in a new consultation and effectively leaked by the four PSBs, would take advantage of a 20% increase in DTT capacity created by a change in technical standards following the switchover process. Channels currently using the so-called Multiplex B would be moved to one of the five other multiplexes to allow room for the new HD channels.
Broadcasters would be required to make the most efficient use of spectrum, and while viewers would be safeguarded, there would also be a move towards MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 for new services.