Free BBC HD satellite TV service given green light
Sky alternative to launch 2008
The BBC has been given the go-ahead to partner with ITV to launch a free-to-view digital TV service transmitted by satellite. The service will include HD programming.
The BBC currently sends out all its channels via satellite in an unencrypted form. Satellite broadcaster Sky offers more than a hundred other channels free of charge, but requires customers buy its set-top box to decode them.
The free service the BBC and ITV are planning would allow viewers to tune into a wider range of channels by buying a one-off set-top box or a TV with an integrated tuner, and having a dish installed. It would replicate the terrestrial digital service, Freeview, but make use of the greater bandwidth to deliver more channels and HD programming.
Right now, HD on Freeview is considered too hard to do, and most broadcasters are waiting for the end of analogue transmissions to free up bandwidth that can be used for HD. Broadcasters are lobbying regulator Ofcom to free up spectrum to allow them to transmit HD programming sooner.
The BBC recently proposed an alternative way of using Freeview to transmit HD content by using spatial multiplexing techniques - the same used to accelerate mobile phone download speeds and the basis for high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi - to boost Freeview's available bandwidth. However, much more testing is required before such a system could be put into service.
Some Britons are in areas into which Freeview currently can't be broadcast because the signal is too weak to reach them. The satellite service is seen by the BBC and ITV as a way to bring free-to-air digital TV to these viewers.
Dubbed Freesat - the same name, incidentally, as Sky's free package - the service is set to go live in Spring 2008.
Roll on FreesatHD
Ok - Ive got Sky+ and another box connected to my satellite dish (a Pace DS810 - 80 quid) that gets the one current free Hi-Def channel from the BBC - a testing channel called 'BBC HD'. The Pace box also gets the rest of the free to view channels save Ch4/5, and does a fine job.
Hearing that more HD channels will come thorugh my Pace box is excellent, and as for quality - just watch Planet Earth at full 1080i and then compare with SD - its breathtaking - the odd selection of HD stuff they are boradcasting on the test channel is sure to grow now Freesat has been agreed.
As for the EPG issue - well, Im curious as to why this Pace box doesnt at least have a good 7 day EPG for freeview channels like their 'Pace Twin' for freeview SD does.
I dont mind paying for a new box, as long as its not repeated every month.
Trade descriptions act.
Freeview is not free, this won't be free.
So long as we are being harrassed into buying a license, tv programming will never be free.
Free TV is when the hardware and the programming is free, so who wants to sue for misrepresentation... or whatever.
Re: Sky monopoly
BBC and ITV have recently stopped using encryption. They restrict coverage by using satellites with a smaller footprint which is meant to just cover the UK though as some of the other comments suggest that isn't entirely the case.
CH4 and Five for their own reasons have decided to stay encrypted and it will be a couple of years before their contact comes up for renewal.
However Sky has flooded the market with subsidised receivers which can only properly work with Sky which uses its own proprietary standards which it keeps secret.
It is possible to received satellite TV in the UK without a Sky box but because it doesn't support the sky standardrds you wont get CH4, CH5 no programme guide and no interactive services.
This leads to a public perception that sky boxes are somehow "better" of indeed that Sky and satellite TV are one and the same.
If and when BBC does launch an HD satellite service you can expect that there will be "fair and balanced" reports of how awful it is all over the Murdoch press.
This is a great pity because in many ways satellite TV is superior to its terrestrial version. There is much more space for such things as HD channels and no need to cover the country with high power transmitters.