Today, the BBC has announced a full timetable for its BBC HD channel becoming available on the new Freeview HD service. London and Manchester will be the first places getting access to the HD service, which we expected. We also knew Freeview HD would use the more efficient DVB-T2 system the BBC has played a huge part in developing over the past few years.
The UK will be the first country in the world to use DVB-T2, and reap the benefits of a major capacity increase. The bad news: you'll need a new set-top box if you want the HD goodness, but don't worry, older boxes won't be obsolete. Hardware to receive the service will go on sale in January 2010, along with a Freeview Web site update that will tell people if they can get the new HD service in their area.
There's no word on which other channels will be available from launch, but the expectation is that both ITV HD and Channel 4 HD will be there. Channel 4 currently offers an upscaled SD picture when there's no HD available and ITV is rebranding its offering to ITV1 HD, so is likely to do the same.
There's also no confirmation yet on what sort of quality we should expect. We've recently complained about BBC HD on freesat dropping its bit rate to unacceptable levels. At this time, the BBC is unable to confirm if it will be broadcasting in 1080i or 720p -- if we get word on this, we'll let you know via an update to this story.
The good news for people keen to get HD, is that much of England and most of Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be switched on by the end of 2010. There are some areas, which include most of the middle part of England, that won't be getting the service until analogue is turned off. We have a full list of transmitters and their switchover dates, so if you want to check yours, you can do.
The goal (*cough*) is to ensure half the population has access to HD before the World Cup in June 2010. The other 98.5 per cent will get the service by the time analogue is switched off in three years' time. The BBC points out that there is about 1.5 per cent per cent of the population who can't and won't ever receive Freeview. It suggests those people should use freesat instead.