freeviewhdOfcom has announced that Freeview HD has reached its target of 50% UK coverage in time for the start of the World Cup tomorrow. High definition broadcasts on digital terrestrial television commenced on December 2 last year, with 7% of the UK initially being covered.

From today, Freeview HD is available to 50% of the UK population, including homes in Manchester, London, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and the majority of Wales.
Households in the coverage areas will be able to watch the World Cup tournament in up to five times more detail than standard definition television via ITV1 HD and the BBC HD channel.
South Africa 2010 will be the first time that a World Cup has been available in HD to a mass market in the UK, marking the biggest step change since the tournament was first broadcast in colour for the 1970 Mexico World Cup.
Following the football tournament, Freeview HD will continue to roll out in-line with the digital switchover towards the target of 98.5% availability in Britain by the end of 2012.
According to Ofcom’s research, UK consumers have purchased over 24 million HD-ready TVs by the end of March this year.
Sky added an additional 428,000 subscribers to its HD service in the first three months of 2010, while Virgin Media’s V+ HD service added a further 77,900 subscribers during the same period.
HD receivers have accounted for 80% of all Freesat equipment sales to date, equating to around 800,000 units. Freeview HD was made possible by the adoption of new compression standard MPEG-4 and the world-first introduction of the DVB-T2 transmission standard, which has increased capacity on DTT by around 50%.
Ofcom’s Greg Bensberg, who led the technical team behind HD on DTT, said: “Two years ago, the promise of HD on Freeview hung in the balance. HD demanded large amounts of additional spectrum – but there was none to be had.

“Fortunately we identified a way of achieving what many thought was impossible – by reorganising existing TV services and introducing two new technologies – MPEG-4 and DVB-T2. This created enough capacity for five HD channels on Freeview.”
Freeview HD currently supports four channels – BBC HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and S4C’s Clirlun in Wales – but the BBC announced last week that BBC One HD will arrive on the platform in the autumn.
The channel’s carriage on DTT has been made possible after Ofcom confirmed that Five HD has failed to launch on Freeview HD before 2012.

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By Expat