Not a day after the BBC finally got final approval to launch its HD channel and disappointed us slightly with no firm details of when that service would transfer to Freeview, Ofcom has stepped up to bring a small smile to my face. Its latest proposals for the upgrading of Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) include plans to create sufficient broadcast bandwidth to accommodate multiple HD channels.
The upgrade is planned to be implemented by 2009 and comprises two aspects, improving the broadcast technology itself and reorganising the channel allocation to accommodate HD. Starting with the tech side of things we'll see the assimilation of the airspace currently occupied by analogue TV into the digital spectrum after the switchover is finished, a move from the currently used MPEG 2 codec to the superior MPEG 4 codec and stricter requirements for broadcasters to make efficient use of the bandwidth allocated. Further to that, the use of a new DVB-T standard, aptly named DVB-T2 should see a 30 per cent increase in the available bandwidth.
Ofcom expects that the number of possible channels will double after all of these steps are taken, although presumably the proposed HD channels would take up a fair amount of that space. As well as changing the technology behind DTT, Ofcom is also proposing to reclaim some of the bandwidth currently dedicated to public service broadcasts and use the new spare capacity for other purposes.
A downside is that everyone will most likely need new set-top boxes to get all this new HD goodness but 2009 is a long way off so we've got time. And considering the BBC and the government are going to be involved in the upgrade process, getting started now is probably a good move.