freeviewThe commercial digital terrestrial multiplexes will cover about 90% of UK homes after switchover, Ofcom said today. SDN and National Grid Wireless, who run multiplexes one and two respectively, are aiming to increase their reach from about 73%.
Channels including Dave, Virgin 1, The Hits and Five US, along with subscription-based services Setanta Sports and Top Up TV, will reach thousands more people under the extension.
There should also be a slight increase in homes receiving the public service channels, according to modelling results released by the regulator today.
Currently 98.5% are able to pick up BBC One and Two, ITV1 and Channel 4 or S4C. After switchover, 98.6% of UK households should be covered by the public service digital multiplexes.

Ofcom said the commercial operators planned to use 80 “major transmitter sites”, compared to more than 1,150 for the PSBs, so their coverage would continue to fall short.
“They have decided to build a transmission network that will allow them to cover around 90% of the UK population from digital switchover,” it said in a fact sheet on switchover details. “They have concluded that they cannot justify the very substantial investment in additional DTT transmission capacity to reach the final 10 per cent of the UK population.”
Under the plans, 93% of homes in England will be able to receive the commercial multiplexes but only 88% in Scotland, 73% in Wales and 75% in Northern Ireland.
Ofcom said: “Coverage is lower in hilly and mountainous regions and where networks are much more expensive to build and population density is much lower.
“Coverage is also lower in areas that are more exposed to international constraints… in the Meridian and Anglia regions, the coverage of the three commercial multiplexes is predicted to be approximately 80% after switchover.”

Around 1.4% of UK households (350,000) will not be fully covered by the public service multiplexes though around 275,000 will still be able to get a signal “most of the time”. Two areas have been identified where there would be a particular problem: Ardrossan in Ayrshire and part of Skelmersdale in Lancashire. Ofcom said both were being addressed.
Legally the commercial multiplex operators are required only to ensure their coverage does not decrease during switchover, so Ofcom said it had no power to ask them to improve it. However, the regulator said it would welcome extension and “stands ready to assist”.

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By Expat