The digital switchover campaign, lead by Digital UK, this week reached Northern Ireland - the final part of the UK to undergo digital switchover this October.
The public information campaign was launched with the help of BBC Northern Ireland and UTV presenters Donna Traynor and Marc Mallett to inform viewers to get ready for the switch. From now until switchover, on-screen prompts will appear on screen reminding viewers of digital switchover, and the need for existing Freeview viewers to retune.
In addition, Northern Ireland will be introduced to DigitAl, the Digital UK mascot and there will be an increased advertising campaign led by a series of roadshow events at locations across the land. The switchover help scheme will assist elderly and disabled viewers to switch to digital, offering the choice of a standard or HD receiver. The technology in the HD receiver offered will also be able to receive Irish TV services, generally in standard definition.
Freeview viewers will have to retune because the frequencies used for digital TV are changing at switchover, in order to use frequencies cleared for high-powered digital TV services.
In Northern Ireland, switchover will take in October.
- Stage 1, when BBC Two Northern Ireland is removed from analogue and the BBC standard definition digital TV channel start broadcasting at full power from every transmitter site occurs on 10th October 2012.
- Stage 2, when all remaining analogue TV services go aff air, and the remainder of the existing digital services go full power on new frequencies occurs on the 24th October 2012.
The 24th October is also when the Republic of Ireland switches off its analogue signals and its own digital service Saorview goes full power. In addition, Freeview HD becomes available in Northern Ireland for the first time from local transmitters on this date and a new "mini multiplex" transmitting RTE1,2 and TG4 goes on air in Northern Ireland. Restrictions on the Saorview coverage area into Northern Ireland are also removed.
UTV is expected to launch its HD service on Freeview HD on this date, too. The BBC has announced that there will be a Northern Ireland version of BBC One HD, although it is not known if this will launch on that date. BBC Two HD will have launched by then, but will be a single UK wide version.
Northern Ireland viewers should opt for "Freeview HD" certified equipment
To be able to make the full use of digital TV through an aerial in Northern Ireland, viewers are recommended to seek equipment with the DVB-T2 / Freeview HD logos on them. This will enable reception of all Freeview channels, including the HD channels, plus additional standard definition services from RTE1,2 and TG4. Freeview HD equipment will also be able to receive the Irish Saorview service.
This is because there is a lot more behind the "Freeview HD" logo on equipment than just high definition television. Freeview HD equipment can decode DVB-T2 signals. DVB-T2 is used for Freeview HD services but also will be used to broadcast a special stripped down "mini multiplex" or group of channels from south of the border to those parts of Northern Ireland who won't be able to receive Saorview, or receive it reliably. Freeview HD boxes and TVs also have MPEG4 compatibility - which is required for Saorview.
HD ready TVs will not automatically have Freeview HD built in, although they may have the MPEG4 compatibility for Irish television.
Ordinary Freeview receivers will just receive five multiplexes of standard definition channels after switchover, no Irish channels, no HD channels. Older Freeview boxes, and ex-ITV/On Digital boxes will cease to work at switchover.