Freeview

Freeview UKFreeview, is the name for the free-to-air services on the Digital Terrestrial Television platform in the UK.
The service is jointly run by its five equal shareholders, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and transmitter operator Arqiva. DTV Services is designed to market changes to the platform.

DTV Services is responsible for marketing services such as Freeview+, the PVR brand and Freeview HD.
Freeview currently uses DVB-T/MPEG-2 and DVB-T2/MPEG-4 systems for terrestrial transmissions.

The technical specification for Freeview is published and maintained by the Digital TV Group, the industry association for digital TV in the UK who also provide the test and conformance regime for Freeview, Freeview + and Freeview HD products.

DMOL, a company owned by the operators of the six DTT multiplexes (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Arqiva) is responsible for technical platform management and policy, including the electronic programme guide and channel numbering.

Public service multiplexes provide coverage to 98.5% of households, while the commercial multiplexes reach 90%. COM7 is planned to reach 70% of homes.
In the United Kingdom, Freeview channel numbers are defined within the terrestrial broadcast stream using the NorDig descriptor format within the DVB “Network Information Table (NIT)”.

 Website: www.freeview.co.uk


 

Freeview Play

freeview_playFreeview Play is a subscription-free connected TV service. You can catch up on TV you missed by scrolling back in the TV guide; there’s no need to

 

go into an app or find a repeat to set record. If you want even more catch up, go to the Freeview Play apps page, you will find BBC iPlayer, the ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 all in one place.

All you have to do is connect your Freeview Play TV or recorder to the internet, then scroll back through the TV guide and find a show you missed.
Freeview Play ScreenYou will find programmes from BBC iPlayer, the ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 sitting alongside live television. Other services are being added all the time, like BBC News and BBC Sport.

All Freeview Play products come with:

  • Up to 60 standard channels
  • Up to 12 HD channels
  • Catch up TV available directly from the TV guide
  • Freeview Play apps page with access to TV players
  • Red Button+ service on BBC channels
  • Streaming channels on the TV guide


Coverage

transmitterOfcom estimates that the coverage level of the three public-service broadcasting multiplexes reaches 98.5% of the population (the same as analogue television) and seven-multiplex reception covers 90% of the population post digital switchover.
The full package of Freeview channels (seven-multiplexes) is only available via the main transmitter in each transmitter group, and a number of 

 

other Relay Transmitters that are deemed to be important in terms of the large coverage area they serve.

Those who rely on a local self-help relay transmitter, or other relay transmitters covering a small village or area only receive the three main Public Services muxes, PSB1, PSB2 and PSB3 (often referred to as ‘Freeview Lite’).

Freeview Lite refers to those areas only served by the public service multiplexes. These areas are served by relays and not by the main transmitters. Commercial multiplex operators have decided that in certain areas (due to their small populations), that it is not economically viable to broadcast their services to certain (mainly rural) areas. 
Viewers with limited or poor Freeview reception, can receive more channels on satellite, either through Freesat or Sky or Freesat.

See: Television transmitter location maps (Ofcom)



Channels

The Freeview service broadcasts free-to-air television channels, radio stations and interactive services from the existing public service broadcasters.
Channels on the service include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 terrestrial channels, as well as their digital services.

There are both Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) channels available, along with Local TV in some areas.
Video On Demand (VOD) services are available from the BBC (BBC iPlayer), ITV (ITV Hub), Channel 4 (All 4), Channel 5 (My5) and YouTube.
DVB-T2 reception equipment is required to view HD channels.

There are currently 29 stations available nationally on Freeview, these include both BBC and commercial radio stations.
Channel numbers and bitrates can change from time to time.

As is the case with DAB, Freeview is a space constricted platform with a limited number of multiplexes. Freeview will never be able to offer the same range of stations available on other UK

 

platforms.
When the UK switches DVB-T multiplexes to DVB-T2 in the future, this could allow more stations to join the platform, or allow those already on Freeview to raise quality by utilising newer more efficient technology.

For a list of channels available see: Freeview Channels


 

Freeview Lite

Freeview LiteWhat is referred to as ‘Freeview Lite’, is actually the three PSB multiplexes, PSB 1 operated by the BBC, PSB2 operated by  ITV plc and Channel 4 and PSB3 operated by the BBC.
PSB3 transmits in DVB-T2 and contains simulcasts of the PSB channels in HD.

These three Public Service multiplexes are obliged by their public service status to reach 98% of the UK population, this is in contrast to commercial multiplexes which have no such obligation and broadcast where it is considered commercially viable. It is up to the individual operators to decide whether or not their mux should be made available to rural areas via relay transmitters.
Most affected, are northern and central Wales, the Scottish Highland and islands, parts of England, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

This could change in the future, as multiplexes migrate to DVB-T2 and PSB standard channels are replaced with a HD versions.
An aerial upgrade could also be an option in some areas, allowing reception of the commercial muxes.

Viewers with limited or poor Freeview reception, can receive most Freeview channels, though not all, on satellite, either through Freesat or Freesat from Sky.



Freeview HD Recorder

Freeview HD Recorder LogoAll Freeview HD Recorders are required to include the following features:

  • At least eight-day electronic programme guide (EPG)
  • Series link (one timer to record whole series)
  • Reco 

    rd split programmes as one programme

  • Offer to record related programme
  • Record alternative showing if there is a time conflict
  • Schedule changes updated in standby (e.g. scheduled recording starting early)
  • Accurate recording (equivalent to PDC) – programmes are recorded based on signals from the broadcaster rather than scheduled time. (Since this is based on signals from the broadcaster, the broadcaster can prevent recording by sending nonsense signals as a form of copy protection, as already happens on music channels. However, this can be circumvented by specifying a timer recording instead of a programme recording or by connecting the receiver to a traditional videocassette recorder.)


Freeview HD

Freeview HD LogoFreeview HD offers high definition TV from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 without subscription via a TV aerial. You will need a Freeview HD receiver or Freeview HD TV.
Freeview HD was the first operational TV service in the world using the DVB-T2 standard.
Channels currently available on Freeview HD are BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, BBC News HD, BBC Four HD, CBBC HD, CBeebies HD, ITV HD, Channel 4 HD, Channel 4 HD +1, 4seven HD, Channel 5HD and Al Jazeera English HD.
STV HD is broadcast in Scotland, and UTV HD in Northern Ireland..
Viewers not able to view ITV HD, have the option to view for free via Freesat on satellite.

Technical Specifications

The Digital TV Group publishes and maintains the UK technical specification for high-definition services on digital terrestrial television (Freeview) based on the new DVB-T2 standard.
The specification is known as the D-book.
Freeview HD is the first operational TV service in the world using the DVB-T2 standard.
This standard is incompatible with DVB-T, and can only be received using compatible reception equipment.
To qualify for the Freeview HD logo, receivers need to be IPTV-capable and display Freeview branding, including the logo, on the electronic programme guide screen.
The Freeview HD trad

emark requirements state that any manufacturer applying for the Freeview HD logo should submit their product to the Digital TV Group’s test centre (DTG Testing) for conformance testing.

Freeview Pause for pizza

To ensure provision of audio description, broadcasters typically use the AAC codec.
Hardware restrictions allow only a single type of audio decoder to operate at any one time, so the main audio and the audio description must use the same encoding family for them to be successfully combined at the receiver.

In the case of BBC HD channels, the main audio is coded as AAC-LC and only the audio description is encoded as HE-AAC.
Neither AAC nor Dolby Digital Plus codecs are supported by most home AV equipment, which typically accept Dolby Digital or DTS, providing stereo, rather than surround sound output.
Transcoding from AAC to Dolby Digital or DTS and multi-channel output via HDMI was not originally necessary for Freeview HD certification.

As of June 2010 the DTG D-Book includes the requirement for mandatory transcoding when sending audio via S/PDIF, and for either transcoding or multi-channel PCM audio when sending it via HDMI in order for manufacturers to gain Freeview HD certification from April 2011.

Thus equipment sold as Freeview HD before April 2011 may not deliver surround sound to audio equipment; later equipment must be capable of surround sound compatible with most suitable audio equipment.


 

Freeview Retuning

Automatic tuning is often referred to as ‘Auto Set Up’. Sometimes a ‘Factory Reset’ or full ‘Auto Tune’ is required to clear all existing channels, depending on set top box or TV manufacturer.
The manual channel tuning mode on your TV or Freeview box allows channel search and installation by specific UHF channel number.
This is recommended in areas where Freeview signals from more than one transmitter can be received.

Missing channels and incorrect channel numbers are the consequence of regular Freeview changes, most of which are made to accommodate new TV services.
As well as frequent EPG changes, updates are also routinely made to the digital multiplexes which carry groups of TV channels. Each multiplex is allocated a particular UHF channel – which will vary, depending on the transmitter which serves your area.
To find out the UHF channel numbers for manual retuning in your area, use the Digital UK postcode checker.

For more information see: www.digitaluk.co.uk


 

Freeview in the Channel Islands

Freeview is available in the Channel TV region from Fremont Point and its seven relay transmitters, commercial muxes are not available.
To receive more channels you will need to use a satellite option such as Freesat or Sky.

ITV HD is not available in the Channels Islands on Freeview, to receive this channel use a Freesat HD receiver and an English post code.
The Fremont Point transmitter serves the whole of the Channel Islands and is owned and operated by Arqiva.

There are also seven relay transmitters throughout the islands:

  • Jersey: St Brelades Bay, St Helier and Gorey
  • Guernsey: Torteval, Les Touillets and St Peters Port
  • Alderney: Alderney Relay

Reception of the French TNT (Télévision Numérique Terrestre) service, is also possible in the Channel Islands.


 

Freeview on the Isle of Man

Freeview is available on the Isle of Man from the Glenmaye transmitter, commercial muxes are not available, reception of these may be possible from the mainland. The island is covered by the Granada ITV region.
The Isle of Man is a dependency of the British Crown, it is not part of the United Kingdom or a member of the EU.
The local government controls broadcasting on the island.

The island is close to the British mainland, it has no local television channels and receives television and radio services from the British mainland relayed from the Glenmaye transmitter.
Viewers with Freeview HD equipment in some areas of the island, may also be able to receive Saorview (Freeview) from the Irish Republic.
Reception of the Irish Saorsat (Freesat) satellite platform, may also be possible on the Isle of Man.

TV Transmitter sites on the Isle of Man:

  • Kimmeragh (Bride)
  • Beary (St Johns)
  • Glenmaye (main transmitter)
  • Foxdale
  • Port St. Mary
  • Carnane (Douglas)
  • Union Mills
  • Laxey
  • Jurby

 

Multiplexes

Crystal Palace MuxesEach multiplex operator is licensed by Ofcom and they decide which services and how many services they include in their multiplex.
For detailed information on UK multiplexes see: www.digitalbitrate.com
See also: DigitalUK Multiplexes
The multiplexes broadcasting nationally in the UK are owned by the companies detailed below:


Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) Multiplexes

These are available from every transmitting station within the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

  • PSB1
    Operated by the BBC
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: 64QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 24
  • PSB2
    Operated by ITV plc and Channel 4 as Digital 3 and 4.
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: 64QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 24
  • PSB3
    Operated by BBC and broadcasting in high definition and requiring a Freeview HD TV or set-top box to view.
    Standard: DVB-T2
    Mode: 32k
    Modulation: 256QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/128
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 40

 

Commercial Multiplexes

Transmitted from 80 main stations which cover 90% of the population.

  • COM4
    Owned by ITV plc
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: 64QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 27
  • COM5
    Operated by Arqiva Services Ltd.
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: 64QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 27
  • COM6
    Operated by Arqiva Services Ltd.
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: 64QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 27
  • Com7
    Operated by Arqiva Services Ltd.
    Standard: DVB-T2
    Mode: 32k
    Modulation: 256 QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/128
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 40 Mbit/s
  • Com8
    Operated by Arqiva Services Ltd.
    Standard: DVB-T2
    Mode: 32k
    Modulation: 256 QAM
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/128
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 40 Mbit/s

 



Northern Ireland Multiplex

On 24 October 2012, RTÉ and TG4 launched a new multiplex (RNI_1) in Northern Ireland broadcasting RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and TG4 on Freeview from transmission sites at Brougher Mountain, Carnmoney Hill and Black Mountain to 90% of the population.

  • NIMux (RNI_1)
    Operated by 

    Standard: DVB-T2
    Mode: 32k
    Modulation: QPSK
    Code Rate: 2/3
    Guard Interval: 1/128
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 9.8

 

Local TV Multiplex

From 26 November 2013, a local TV multiplex will launch in certain areas around the UK. The multiplex is operated by Comux. More information.

  • Local Multiplexes
    Operated by Conux
    Standard: DVB-T
    Mode: 8k
    Modulation: QPSK
    Code Rate: 3/4
    Guard Interval: 1/32
    Useful bitrate (Mbit/s): 9

 

Multiplexing Technology

dvb-t2Each Freeview multiplex is an error-protected bitstream of 24, 27 or 40 megabits per second, which can be used for almost any combination of digitally-encoded video, audio and data.
The DVB-T standard provides a multiplex service that can make trade-offs between the number of services and the picture and audio quality.
A number of services use the same bandwidth at different times. For example CBeebies and BBC Four currently use the same space in their multiplex, with CBeebies broadcasting from 6am until 7pm and BBC Four from 7pm; similarly for CBBC and BBC Three.
some multiplexes allocate more bandwidth to services, providing a smaller number of higher-quality services.

The modulation of the multiplexes can be varied to squeeze higher digital bitrates out of the same portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, requiring a stronger signal for good reception.
The modulation schemes used in the UK are, in order of bandwidth efficiency, each with a progressively higher bitrate, at the cost of progressively higher likelihood of signal degradation:

QPSK – Quadrature Phase Shift Keying

Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK) is a form of Phase Shift Keying in which two bits are modulated at once, selecting one of four possible carrier phase shifts (0, 90, 180, or 270 degrees). QPSK allows the signal to carry twice as much information as ordinary PSK using the same bandwidth. QPSK is used for satellite transmission of MPEG2 video, cable modems, videoconferencing, cellular phone systems, and other forms of digital communication over an RF carrier.

16-QAM (no longer used as of digital switchover)
64-QAM (only used on the DVB-T multiplex)
256-QAM (only used on the DVB-T2 multiplex)
1024-QAM
2048-QAM (Currently in development)

Multiplexes can make use of statistical multiplexing at the MPEG video coder whereby the bitrate allocated to a channel within the multiplex can vary dynamically depending on how difficult it’s to code the picture content at that precise time, and how much demand there is for bandwidth from other channels.
In this way, complex pictures with much detail may demand a higher bitrate at one instant and this can result in the bitrate allocated to another channel in the same multiplex being reduced if the second channel is currently transmitting pictures which are easier to encode, with less fine detail.
Developments in statistical multiplexing, improved compression technology, and, in some cases, an acceptance of lower quality or lower resolution broadcasts, allowed gradual increases in the number of services carried on digital terrestrial television multiplexes.


 

Freeview Terms Explained

EIT
Event Information Table. This is the part of the Service Information (SI) carried on the digital television broadcast that carries data for the electronic programme guide. On the Topfield PVRs, it’s possible to load data into the unit’s EIT memory from an external source, as well as using the broadcast information.

EPG
Electronic Programme Guide. Information transmitted that provides information about what programmes are on now and next. In some areas, including the UK, a complete 7 day guide is transmitted, and can be accessed by any receiver that is equipped with suitable software. An alternative EPG is transmitted by a company called 4TV, but this is not used by the Topfield PVRs. With a PVR, an EPG usually makes it possible to view forthcoming programs and select easily the ones that you would like to record, instead of having to manually enter recording times.

Logical Channel Number (LCN)
Logical Channel Number (LCN), is the digital channel number that is used to select a channel on Freeview, BBC One is on 1, ITV on 3.
The LCN is not the UHF frequency; all the channels on a multiplex will have the same UHF frequency and individual LCNs.

Network Information Table (NIT)
The NIT conveys information relating to the physical organization of the multiplex, transport streams carried via a given network, and the characteristics of the network itself.
Transport streams are identified by the combination of an original network ID and a transport stream ID in the NIT.

Programme Association Table (PAT)
Provides the link between the transport stream id, the programme number and the programme map id (PMT).

Programme Map Table (PMT)
When pointed to by the PAT, the PMT provides the associated group of elements (video, audio etc.), with the programme number.

Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK)
Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK) is a form of Phase Shift Keying in which two bits are modulated at once, selecting one of four possible carrier phase shifts (0, 90, 180, or 270 degrees). QPSK allows the signal to carry twice as much information as ordinary PSK using the same bandwidth. QPSK is used for satellite transmission of MPEG2 video, cable modems, videoconferencing, cellular phone systems, and other forms of digital communication over an RF carrier.

 

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