Keep up-to-date with the latest news on Twitter @a516digital

Countdown to Digital Switchover in Northern Ireland

The clock is ticking towards the final digital switchover in the UK, taking place next month in Northern Ireland. Unlike in other regions of the UK, the Northern Irish switchover will be a little bit different, as additional services will be available through the airwaves, but not via standard Freeview receivers... provides a brief guide to switchover in Northern Ireland.

Viewers who watch TV via satellite or cable services on all sets are unaffected, however viewers with at least one TV connected to an standard aerial will need to have suitable digital equipment.

In order to make the most out of the digital services that will be transmitted, viewers across Northern Ireland will need a "Freeview HD" certified box or TV. In addition to receiving standard Freeview, plus Freeview HD, such a receiver has the necessary specifications to receive the Irish Republic's Saorview service (via signal overspill from South of the Border) and a special "mini-multiplex" called "NIMux", which will carry RTE1,2 and TG4 in standard definition to some parts of Northern Ireland, targetted at areas where reception direct from the Irish Republic is not possible. It is called a "mini-multiplex" as it only will carry three channels, as opposed to up to 12 channels on a full multiplex. [RTE/TG4 Coverage in Northern Ireland after switchover: map - from Ofcom website]

The most modern Freeview HD boxes and TVs are also equipped to receive services delivered by broadband.

Viewers with a "YouView" receiver will be able to receive the full set of services available, as the receiver has Freeview HD certification.

Users of normal (non-HD) Freeview boxes or TVs will continue to be able to receive the UK's standard definition TV services, as available in the rest of the UK. Most of these standard boxes are not equipped to receive the "MPEG4" Saorview transmissions from South of the Border. Please note that HD ready TVs without Freeview HD certification will not be suitable for the UK's high definition services, although some may receive the Saorview HD channels.

  The Two Stages
Switchover begins in Northern Ireland on the 10th October 2012 (stage 1). At this point only BBC services are affected. BBC Two on analogue will be switched off just after midnight, and will be replaced by a high-powered transmission of the BBC's standard definition TV services by 6am (later on relays). As this high-powered service will use different frequencies to the BBC service currently available, viewers will have to retune their TVs or set-top boxes. Viewers who currently live in a part of Northern Ireland where the digital signal is currently not available, will need to get their Freeview boxes or TVs out on this date.

On 24th October 2012, all remaining analogue services will be taken off air. By 6am, all other Freeview services will have moved frequencies. In some cases, the services will use the former analogue frequencies. Viewers receiving from a relay transmitter will need to wait until later in the day before the service is restored. At this point, Freeview HD services will become available for the first time.It is expected that UTV's HD channel, currently only carried on Virgin Media, will be added to the Freeview HD lineup. 

In addition, viewers in Northern Ireland will gain access to Channel 4's catch up channel 4seven, which has until now only been broadcast in "post-switchover" regions of the UK on Freeview channel 47.

Switchover in the Irish Republic also takes place on this day - changes to output from Irish transmitters will result in a signal boost northwards into Northern Ireland. As mentioned earlier, most standard boxes will be incompatible with the Irish Saorview signal. A new mini-multiplex carrying 3 Irish channels RTE1, 2 and TG4 in standard definition will go live in parts of Northern Ireland, with a transmitter at Black Mountain supplying the signal for Belfast. Additional mini multiplex sites are located at Carnmoney Hill and Brougher Mountain.  Only "Freeview HD" certified boxes or TVs will be able to receive the service, as only these boxes/TVs have the specifications to receive this special multiplex, which will use the second generation DVB-T2 broadcast standard.

  Additional Local TV channel to come in Belfast
Ofcom are currently considering applications to run a local TV service on digital TV in the Belfast area, alongside a UK-wide scheme to bring local TV services to Freeview. Belfast's Northern Visions, who operate NvTV, are in the running. Local TV will be available to Belfast viewers on Freeview channel 8 when it launches. It is not known what will happen to NvTV, currently on analogue,  at stage 2 of the digital switchover. 

Support for viewers is available via Digital UK. Their helpline will be open for longer on switchover dates, and can be contacted on 08456 50 50 50 or online at

Viewers seeking information about Saorview availablilty in Northern Ireland should see
Some viewers, including the over 75s, will be able to access support from the UK switchover helpscheme. More details, plus information on who is eligible over at

  Related articles:
Reception details published for Northern Ireland's extra Irish TV services (31/05/2012)
Switchover campaign reaches Northern Ireland (15/04/2012)

  Northern Ireland's special multiplex - Digital UK information:

NI Mux OFCOM coverage map (03/07/2012):


  1. "See the Freeview channel guide page on to check the current channels available. Channels highlighted in bold are available on relays only."

    That wording seems slightly misleading to me, implying that only relays carry the main channels!

    IMHO this would sound better:

    "See the Freeview channel guide page on to check the current channels available. Only channels highlighted in bold are available on relays."

  2. text amendment made 19:41 03/09/2012


IMPORTANT: This post is open for comments for a limited period (usually 14 days) following its upload date. You can comment with a Google Account (e.g. for Gmail, YouTube, Google Play)
Comment not appearing? Comments may be subject to moderation and as such may not immediately appear on the site - comments will wait in the moderation queue until they are processed. Check back later. (Comments submitted anonymously may fail the spam filters.)

Please note: Some types of comments may be removed at the discretion of a516digital. With freedom of speech comes responsibility: Keep it clean, civil and on-topic! See the "About this website" section (link at the foot of the page) for full terms and conditions about what is and what isn't acceptable on this site.