Freesat, a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, has been a long time coming, but finally the service sees commencement. Aimed to sit alongside Freeview in bringing the entire UK over to digital broadcasting before the last analogue signal is switched off in 2012, Freesat looks set to offer all of Freeview's benefits, as well as many of those available with Sky, but without the latter's cost.
To receive Freesat all that is needed is a satellite dish, an appropriate receiver box and, oddly enough, a TV. Unlike Freeview, for the moment anyway, Freesat also comes with in an HD variety. Currently only BBC HD is available with ITV HD to be launched soon, unlike Sky which also offers sports and films in high definition. The current line-up of 80 channels is planned to rise to 200 by the end of the year, though, so some more HD fodder could be added.
ITV HD is currently a Freesat exclusive as Sky is still negotiating terms, although the HD content isn't actually to broadcast on a dedicated channel. Instead it will be made available as a ‘red button' service alongside normal programmes when an HD version is available. As the saying goes: "any HD is better than no HD" - as made up by me just now.
Various retailers are now stocking Freesat boxes (and satellites), from various manufacturers, including Bush, Goodmans and Grundig. Pricing for standard definition boxes is ranging from about £50 to £80 with HD receivers set at about £120 to £150.