The UK’s BBC has begun testing the transmission of high def services over Freeview in a move that could see the introduction of full HD terrestrial by the end of 2009.
The broadcaster has started transmissions from a Guildford-based transmitter using the second-generation DVB-T specification DVB-T2.
Justin Mitchell, leader of the DVB-T2 modem development team at the BBC, said the trial could enable the introduction of HD onto Freeview by December next year.
DVB-T2 is said to offer 30 per cent more data carrying capacity as DVB-T under the same conditions.
Across the Channel, the HD version of public channel France 2 has been launched on several platforms, including CanalSat DTH and Numéricable.
As has been the case with other broadcasters across Europe, including VRT in Belgium and Nederland 1 in The Netherlands, France 2 will show sport events such as the Tour de France and the Beijing Olympics in HD.
Freeview currently uses the ten-year old DVB-T standard. DVB-T2 was developed for use in a “post-Analogue Switch-Off environment”.
UK communications regulator Ofcom has said it wants to convert at least one of the nation’s DVB-T multiplexes to DVB-T2 by the end of 2009.
The test comes as HDTV services begin to flourish in the UK, which has almost 10m HDTV sets currently in use.
While Sky – the main provider of HD broadcasts in the UK – has barely half a million subscribers signed up to its Sky HD service, much is being made of the May launch of Freesat.
The venture – a joint initiative between the BBC and ITV – has the potential to give millions of UK viewers access to free HD programmes for the first time.
Its launch has prompted Sky to cut the price of its Sky+ HD set-top box by 50 per cent.
Virgin and Apple have also improved their HD offerings recently.