Ofcom has said it is satisfied that sufficient capacity will be available to launch a fourth HD channel on the digital terrestrial network as early as mid-2010.
The regulator has issued a second statutory notice to apply to the UK’s public broadcasters ITV, Channel 4, S4C, Five and Teletext for capacity within Multiplex B. Given that the ITV and Channel 4/S4C were allocated capacity in an award made on October 17, it seems likely that the new spectrum will go to Five, should the RTL-owned broadcaster be interested. However, it is clear from Ofcom’s documents that this is far from a foregone conclusion. The closing date for applications is February 19.
Permanent terrestrial HD services are expected to be on air next autumn, however Ofcom has now approved the BBC’s request to have temporary frequencies assigned for HD in London and other areas.
The fourth HD channel has been made possible through the combination of DVB-T2 and H.264 technology. Ofcom’s admittedly pessimistic forecasts for the use of spectrum do not specify how much bandwidth should be allocated per channel, but are based on 36 Mbps of total capacity, including items such as EPG information.