Four Freeview HD channels have been given the go ahead to launch as soon as new year, Ofcom has announced. One channel will be reserved for the BBC, while the three others will be subject to a bidding process among commercial broadcasters.
However, the channels will only be available once your region has had the analogue signal switched-off, freeing up the necessary bandwith for HD.
So if you're in London you'll be waiting until 2012, while the Border, West Country and Granada regions will lead the way. To find out when the change takes place in your area, check out the Digital UK site here.
While the BBC gets first dibs, the three remaining channels will be up for grabs for the likes of ITV and Channel 4. Potential suitors will be judged on three criteria: efficient use of the spectrum; contribution to public service broadcasting; and contribution to the range and diversity of television services in the UK.
You will of course need a new Freeview box to handle the content and an HD-Ready TV – but then you knew that already, didn't you?
Ofcom will change the way digital terrestrial television channels are arranged to clear the way for the new services, with the current bundling system being reorganised to allow for the extra space required – each HD channel taking up four to five times the space of a standard service.
This rearrangement of the digital TV system should also free-up room for yet more standard definition channels, at the same time as hopefully improving the quality – the picture, not the content... – of existing Freeview channels.
It seems all the pressure put on Ofcom, not least from the AV industry, may just have paid off. Bring on the HD, we say...