UK’s Ofcom Reserves Spectrum for HD

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe editor

The UK broadcasting licensing body Ofcom has underlined the importance
of sport to the future of high definition in its plans for bringing the
technology to the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform. The
regulator is reserving space for Channel 4, S4C and Channel 3 licence
holders, including ITV, which has HD coverage of the FA Cup and the
2010 World Cup lined up for its new Freeview service.

C4, ITV
and the BBC are already broadcasting HD over Freesat, the free-to-air
satellite carrier, and cable networks. But getting the format on the
Freeview DTT platform was regarded as crucial in the continuing
development of both technologies. The BBC is currently testing DVB-T2
in the south of England and plans to launch its HD DTT service by the
end of 2009.

The commercial broadcasters were allotted capacity
following a tendering process, with C4 and its Welsh-language
counterpart, S4C, making a joint submission to cover the whole of the
UK. The Channel 3 bid was made by ITV, which covers England, with
regional variations, Channel TV for the Channel Islands, Scottish
commercial service STV and UTV in Northern Ireland.

As well as
drama and regional news and magazine programs, ITV’s HD Freeview
offering will include coverage of the FA Cup tournament and the next
World Cup, to be held in South Africa in 2010. A third of S4C’s
programming will be in HD, including European Cup rugby.

The
commercial DTT services will begin rolling out in the northwest of
England by the autumn of next year and be country-wide by the end of
the digital switchover process in 2012. This could include a fourth HD
licensee and Ofcom intends to award that licence by the end of this
year.

The BBC has shown its further commitment to new
broadcasting technologies by appointing Matthew Postgate Controller of
BBC Research & Innovation (R&I). Postgate was previously
Controller of the BBC Mobile Team and in his year and a half in that
role re-launched the department and oversaw the implementation of the
BBC iPlayer on iPhone and iTouch and a downloadable version for the
Nokia N96.

The iPlayer has proved extremely popular with
viewers, who are able to catch-up with programmes they may have missed
by watching on their computers. To extend its reach the iPlayer is now
available through BSkyB’s Sky Player, which offers the satellite
broadcaster’s channels, including Sky Sports. All material on the BBC
iPlayer will be available and users do not have to be Sky subscribers.

Postgate
will oversee all research and development undertaken by the BBC and the
intention is for the results to be used not only by the broadcaster but
also in wider markets, including academia. A priority will be
establishing technologies and services for a Digital Broadband Britain,
in addition to co-operating with universities and other research bodies.