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The first BBC HD broadcasts on Freeview will start in December, it has been confirmed.

Manchester and Liverpool will be the first cities to get Freeview HD, said Graham Plumb, Head of Distribution Technology at BBC Operations. This will happen on 2 December, when the free HD signal will be switched on at the Winter Hill transmitter.

Freeview HD will eventually be rolled out across the entire length and breadth of the UK, but the timescale for this remains hazy.

Plumb added that although London isn't scheduled to switch over from analogue to digital until 2012, plans to upgrade the Crystal Palace transmitter for Freeview HD have been inked for December this year.

Freeview HD will use the MPEG 4 codec - standard-definition Freeview uses MPEG 2 - to encode content, which will be transmitted using the DVB-T2 digital broadcasting system. To watch the BBC's Freeview HD programming, viewers will need new set-top boxes.

A further “four main transmitters” will also be upgraded during the first half of next year, Plumb said, but the BBC is keeping transmitter names and exact upgrade dates close to its chest until “plans are a bit firmer”. ®

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