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BBC & C4 propose more HD channels on Freeview

BBC C4 Arqiva
The BBC together with C4 and Arqiva propose more TV channels
In a joint proposal by the BBC, Channel 4 and Arqiva made public today, the BBC has said that it is proposing to simulcast a third TV channel in HD, plus bring back an HD Red Button channel to Freeview. Channel 4 has said that it would add one or two further HD channels on Freeview, if the go-ahead was given to use currently vacant capacity in the UHF frequency band for two more digital TV multiplexes.

The addition of an HD Red Button channel would, in effect, mark the return of the service that was on air during the Olympics, simulcasting Freeview channel 301.

The proposals by the BBC, Channel 4 and Arqiva, which have been hinted at in the past by Channel 4, were released by Ofcom today, as it decides what to do with a chunk of TV frequencies in the so-called "600 MHz band" between UHF channels 31 and 37, including the frequencies previously used for Channel 5 analogue in many parts of the UK, between now and 2018.

Beyond 2018, Ofcom wants to use the 600 MHz band to house digital TV services displaced from the 700 MHz band, which it wants to earmark for "5G" mobile broadband services. Earlier this year, Ofcom outlined its plans for the UHF band and invited stakeholders to comment on the proposals.

In their submission to Ofcom, the BBC, Channel 4 and multiplex operator Arqiva state that the "launch of [more] HD channels on [Digital Terrestrial Television] in the interim generates benefits across a range of stakeholders that outweigh the operational, consumer and opportunity costs. Interim use of 600 leads to an accelerated take-up of DVB-T2/HD sets as the launch of HD services makes households more likely to buy DVB-T2 equipment (as opposed to DVB-T equipment) and further creates better incentives for manufacturers to produce/sell DVB-T2 equipment. This also benefits the broadcasters that will launch HD services on the interim multiplexes by delivering a higher (weighted) viewing share."

The additional digital multiplexes would broadcast from 20 transmitter sites around the UK, reaching 63% of the population. The announcement explains why platform manager DMOL reserved 20 channel numbers for HD in the recent Freeview channel number reshuffle.

The broadcasters add that with more HD channels and more users being enticed to buy DVB-T2 (Freeview HD) receivers to watch them, it will be easier to migrate other multiplexes to DVB-T2 after 2018. The switch to DVB-T2 would allow for more services to fit on one multiplex, due to higher bandwidth and using the improved MPEG4 standard for video. Additionally, more single frequency networks could be built. suggests that content currently on the three commercial multiplexes could be moved over to two DVB-T2 multiplexes and the number of single frequency networks carrying the multiplexes be increased, thus reducing the number of frequencies needed at a time when frequencies for use by TV will be cut.

Ofcom appears to agree with the idea and has indicated that it will now proceed with planning for one or two digital multiplexes in the currently empty frequency band, but use of the frequencies may be shared with PMSE (e.g. wireless microphones) and White Space Devices (WSDs) - devices that use locally empty frequencies for wireless internet connections, subject to further research.

Sky, interestingly, objected to the use of the 600 MHz band for TV in its submission to Ofcom, instead declaring that it should solely be used for WSDs. This is not surprising, given its current dominance in the HDTV market.

  Read the full submission from the BBC, Channel 4 and Arqiva on the Ofcom website: is not responsible for the content or availability of external sites.

  Full coverage of Ofcom's announcement from a broadcasting perspective: Index page - click here


  1. All positive news for the free TV platform, and welcomed, but strange as there is a spare slot now that nobody wants ? !!

    What about Freesat? Presumably they would be consistent and launch the same HD channels there? - though all they need to do is go FTA and they could do it now .

    1. I would imagine any additional BBC content would go on satellite, too. They now have the space for up to 8 HD channels over two transponders. Currently only five slots are accounted for (4x BBC One HD Nations and 1x BBC Two HD).


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