Bush will offer the cheapest Freesat HD receiver at £120

The official launch event of Freesat is currently in progress in central London, and whathifi.com editor Andy Clough is in attendance, busily sending us the news using the very latest technological technique – whispering into a mobile phone.

Emma Scott, managing director of Freesat, says there will be 200 channels on the service by the end of 2008 – as opposed to the 180 previously reported. Once installed, you can watch BBC HD free-to-air as of today, while ITV HD will follow in a couple of weeks. The deal with ITV HD is exclusive to Freesat.

Official: Euro championships in high-def

The ITV HD service will begin with football – the channel will show this summer's European Championships in full high definition – to be followed by a full HD line-up later in the year.

The BBC HD content – available as of right now – is the same as the content currently viewed by subscribers to Sky HD and Virgin V+. Those who take up Freesat will be able to watch the Olympics in high definition, and with full surround sound.

There are, as of today's launch, four sanctioned retailers for Freesat receivers. These are: Argos, Comet, Currys/Dixons and John Lewis.

Right now, there is one HD Freesat receiver available, the Humax Foxsat HD. It costs £150, and we'll receive ours tomorrow. Keep an eye out for an exclusive review appearing here very soon...

Lots of set-top boxes

Within a few weeks there will be an impressive raft of Freesat set-top boxes on the market. Grundig is launching the GUFSAT01SD standard definition box at £49.99, with the GUFSAT01HD high-definition box to follow at £149.99.

Bush is also releasing both SD and HD versions, with the BFSAT01SD costing £49.99, while the high-def BFSAT01HD costs just £119.99. This will be the cheapest high-definition TV receiver on the market.

Goodmans is following a similar pattern, with its standard-def GFSAT100SD (£69.99) and high-def GFSAT200HD (£149.99). All these receivers will available within the month.

Other important features

Richard Lindsay-Davies, commercial director of Freesat, says that each receiver wearing the Freesat badge will have to conform to very tight specifications. They will all he says, have an ethernet port – to facilitate a host of interactive services, as well as the possibility of IPTV streaming via broadband.

Even more excitingly, Lindsay-Davies – with whom we earlier posted an exclusive interview that you can read here – says Freesat is in talks with the BBC about the possibility of integrating the Beeb's iPlayer into the service. If a deal can be struck, it would mean you could access the iPlayer within the Freesat EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) and watch programmes you've missed in the last seven days.

Lastly, there is now a new Freesat website up and running. Visit www.freesat.co.uk for more information.

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