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What's happening with Freeview HD?

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Graham Plumb Graham Plumb | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 24 June 2009

[The Editor: In our recent open post we had several questions about the roll-out of Freeview HD. This is the first post on the blog from Graham Plumb, Head of Distribution Technology, BBC Operations Group.]

The plan is still to launch Freeview HD on December 2nd at the Winter Hill transmitter serving Manchester and Liverpool. The plan has always been to roll Freeview HD out around the country following switchover and Winter Hill was selected as the first achievable transmitter. There will need to be a retrospective upgrade of regions that have already switched.

The originally mentioned date of November came from the fact that Winter Hill starts to switch over in November. But it was quickly realised that the BBC's second Multiplex (Mux B) that is being converted for Freeview HD actually switches over on 2nd December at Winter Hill.

The March 2010 date in the Ofcom document is simply the last backstop date by when Winter Hill has to be on air to comply with our licence conditions. They've built in a contingency (as already happens in switchover licences).

The BBC has been working on plans to deliver early upgrades to some stations (serving high populations) that are late in the switchover programme and would otherwise have to wait long for Freeview HD.

One example is London that switches over in 2012 but we're planning to upgrade its Crystal Palace transmitter in December this year. There are another four main transmitters that we plan to upgrade in the first half of 2010. We can give the names and dates of these transmitters in a little while when plans are a bit firmer. We are also planning an upgrade to the Digital UK postcode database, which will tell viewers when they can expect their transmitter to be upgraded to Freeview HD.

Although everything is still on track against plans, there are significant technical and contractual challenges - not least to get transmission and domestic receiver equipment through design, development and delivery stages within an ambitious timescale. As with any major technical project, there is always a risk of slippage due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. However, there is industry-wide commitment to rolling out Freeview HD as soon as possible, and good progress is being made on all fronts.

Graham Plumb is the Head of Distribution Technology, BBC Operations Group.


  • Comment number 1.

    When you say Crystal Palace will get its upgrade this year, I assume you mean that the hardware will be in place for its eventual HD switch-on. I'm going to assume that Crystal Palace can't carry HD until the multiplexes are jiggled around to free up some space?

    Or are you actually planning to roll Freeview HD out in London from the end of this year?

  • Comment number 2.

    "What's happening with Freeview HD?"

    Nothing I hope! What most people outside of the industry don't realise, because the industries partners (the home electronics manufactures) don't want it known, is that HD on Freeview (even after DSO) will drastically reduce the quality of SD channels - you can't squeeze a quart into a pint pot how ever much you want to - and/or that the number of SD channels will have to be reduced - meaning less choice, this has been one of the major marketing hypes for people to take up digital TV. The mux's of the DVB-T just don't have enough bandwidth within the available transmission spectrum for a proper duel (SD/HD) platform.

    Sorry but, unless Ofcom and the government have second thoughts about the use of the available broadcasting spectrums in the UK (after DSO), SD Freeview users are being sold down the river here, HD belongs on cable or satellite...

  • Comment number 3.

    Just for once I was hoping that London wouldn't receive special treatment in a technology rollout.

    I guess I was wrong again.

  • Comment number 4.

    Do you have a provisional date for Westcountry yet, and equally important can you update us on the likely availability and costs of HD STBs, PVRs etc.?

  • Comment number 5.

    Hope one of the other transmitters scheduled to get HD is Emley Moor!

  • Comment number 6.

    Hmmm, didn't spot the open blog otherwise I might have brought it up. Not to be rude, but there is nothing new in your post, all of that information has been in the public domain for a considerable amount of time and been discussed in various places on-line and in various ofcom ramblings. It is always good for someone to bring it up as there will be people not aware of it, however you as a BBC employee should be taking a shouting it from the rooftops approach.

    One of the more recent(ish) developments is that Ofcom want a 5th HD channel by 2012. I asked this before but please could we have some justification of the number crunching. How on earth this will work without a gigantic leap backwards in picture quality? Can we have your specific numbers and assumptions on this please.

    Also it would be nice to know some insider information on realistically how many DVB-T2 MPEG-4 boxes will be available in late 2009/early 2010. As you know Ofcom has been slightly worried about availability. Do you forsee any availability problems at launch? If so when will these be resolved by?

  • Comment number 7.

    P.S. my post referred to the blog by Graham Plumb, not anybody elses posts! Just to make that clear.

  • Comment number 8.

    @neiltc13 , it makes sense to focus on dense populated areas, for the investment and the timescale up to the Olympics you want as many people watching as well.

    From a consumer point of view the BBC and other partners need to work out how people will know if the TV they buy can pick up HD.

    Just like HD Ready there needs to be a new logo.

    The Freesat logo tells people there is a freesat tuner in the TV with the ability to pick up HD channels.

    There needs to be a HD ready freeview sticker or image for online sales so people know the TV can be plugged in and it will recieve a HD signal via terrestrial.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes everyone who bought a TV with Freeview built in will need an extra box to receive HD and so TVs capable of receiving Freeview HD out of the box need to have a clear sticker.

  • Comment number 10.

    Im sorry but if people want HD then bloody pay for it. Picture quality is already getting worse and worse on SD and HD channels. The BBC is quite clearly not bothered about HD picture quality - hence its stance on not upping bandwith for sport when needed and also the fact people at the BBC believe you can get good quality HD at 6mbps.

    Its time standards were set legally on bandwith limitations for HD and SD. i wouldnt be shocked if the BBC started running the HD channel of 6mbps soon and started the usual trick of blaming production.

    HD was going to be a huge step in picture quality. Now it seems its going to be a thing of the past.

  • Comment number 11.


    "There needs to be a HD ready freeview sticker or image for online sales so people know the TV can be plugged in and it will recieve a HD signal via terrestrial."

    They could, of course, just try reading the product specifications or indeed the product label - the last thing we need is another stupid label that can mean anything, the current "HD Ready" label is meaningless, all it means is that the set is HD completable, it says nothing about the display quality etc...

  • Comment number 12.

    Just for fun I have been looking at Ofcoms plan for the switchover. Inorder to free up space on the B multiplex its' channels must be moved to other multiplexes. Currently mux 1 has 4 sdtv channels with BBC1 having a bit rate of 4.9Mbit/s. After the switchover mux 1 will have 8 sdtv statistical multiplexed channels giving an average bit rate of 2.56 Mbit/s. Ofcom say that this is mitigated by a 23% stat mux gain and a 10% for improved encoding which gives us 3.46 Mbit/s per channel. So it is clear that according to Ofcoms figures the quality of BBC1 will be greatly reduced from 4.9 Mbit/s to 3.46 Mbit/s.

    Ok so what about HD. Intitally Ofcom plans to put 4 HD 720p channels on mux B. The total bandwidth is 27.2 Mbit/s which gives us 6.8 Mbit/s per channel. Ofcom say that this is mitigated by a 15% stat mux gain which gives us 7.82 Mbit/s per channel. So what would 720p/50 look like at such a low bit rate. Well the EBU has done a study using TSCES of visual quality of HD at various bit rates. The values obtained have a scale of 0 to 100. Basicaly 0 is SD and 100 is 1080p/50 uncompressed. Averaged over various video sequences and with both LCD and Plasma screens the result for 720p is 65. In other words the picture quality only reaches 65% of the improvement uncompressed video can achieve over SD. So I am afraid that many people may well be disappointed when freeview HD arrives.

    Unfortunatly this is not the total story. The test were performed with video sequences derived from 1080p/50 video. Research has shown that deinterlacing 1080i/25 significanly reduces the subjective picture quality. Unfortunatly alot of video is being produced in 1080i/25 format which would require a bit rate of 11 Mbit/s to give the same quality as 8 Mbit/s sourced at 1080p/50.

    Alas the situation is even worst. Ofcom plan to increase the number of HD channels on mux B to 5. This will reduce the stat mux corrected bit rate to 6.79 Mbit/s.

    So in conclusion Ofcom is going to destroy DDT in exactly the same way as it destroyed DAB. SD and HD picture quality on DTT is going to be unwatchable.

    Sound quality will also be affected as the 5.1 dolby is going to be transmitted at 160 kbit/s instead of the 320 kbit/s used on satellite.

    All this is so the goverment can make a quick buck from selling the spare channels. Well they might be able to sell the spectrum but that does not mean it will be used. Channel 4 bought a new DAB multiplex but they have been unable to find any radio stations to go on it so it looks as though it has been abandoned. My view is that all of band should be kept for DTT and HD in particular. There should also be a long term plan to move SD to DVBT-2 and to h264 encoding.

    There is another view. Terestrial television is very expensive compared to satellite so it could be argued that terestrial bands should be kept for mobile services and satellite for fixed. Ofcom by decreasing the quality of terestrial television will encourage people to move to satellite.

    So in conclusion Ofcom is going to destroy DDT in exactly the same way as it destroyed DAB. SD and HD picture quality on DTT is going to be unwatchable.

  • Comment number 13.


    Not everyone unable to get satellite/cable is stuck that way owing to cost. There are still people unable to get satellite installed (for reasons other than price) and who are not in cable-ready areas. And there are other reasons (not purely down to cost) for not wishing to go satellite/cable.

    Are you really saying that these people should be exempt from receiving HD broadcasts?

  • Comment number 14.


    If what you say is true, then something needs to be done. I'd rather have high-bitrate SD than low-bitrate HD.

  • Comment number 15.

    #13. At 10:27am on 25 Jun 2009, TiggsPanther wrote:

    "Are you really saying that these people should be exempt from receiving HD broadcasts?"

    Not sure if your read the very good comment @ #12 before you posted your remarks, but assuming that you didn't, might I suggest that you do read it and attempt to understand the technical jargon within - the point that I (and the comment @ #12) was making is that SD and HD on Freeview, as currently proposed by Ofcom etc, will be unwatchable, you would actually be better off with a higher bit rate SD service!

    As the old adage (polite version) goes, "rubbish in = rubbish out", the 'studio' acquisition format is irrelevant to the transmission bit-rate.

    I would be more than happy if the current spectrum (that is being used for analogue TV at present) wasn't sold off after DSO but was instead used to provide a proper 'Freeview' HD service for all...

  • Comment number 16.

    I think we can all agree that selling of the analogue space is nothing but another one of OFCOMs idiotic decisions. The TV spectrum should remain for TV - NOT more pointless mobile services.

  • Comment number 17.

    My understanding was the SD channels would improve in quality after switchover.

    The total bandwidth available for SD services is currently 120Mb/s (18Mb/s * 4 + 24Mb/s * 2)

    After switchover the total bandwidth available for SD services will still total 120Mb/s (24Mb/s * 5) due to the move back to 64QAM for all muxes.

    With improvements in transmission technologies, the picture quality should improve for these services. Or am i missing something?

  • Comment number 18.

    #17. At 1:06pm on 25 Jun 2009, mleotaylor wrote:

    "With improvements in transmission technologies, the picture quality should improve for these services. Or am i missing something?"

    I think you're missing the fact that Ofcom now want to squeeze four (and now possibly five) HD services into the same available spectrum tat is currently carrying the SD Freeview service, hence why some current SD channels will have to move mux's and/or their bit-rate reduced - don't be fooled by talk of better compression formats, what they mean by that is it's better because they can reduce the payload (file size if you like), it's not a direct comment on picture quality.

    DTT, both SD and HD, are - as "trevorjharris" said - going down the same path as DAB has gone, Ofcom see their roll as a way of making money for the Exchequer via licensing rather than serving broadcasters and the public as the old IBA did, were quality was all important.

  • Comment number 19.

    But the total SD bandwidth will remain unchanged (120Mb/s) due 64QAM being used instead of 16QAM. BBC Mux B Channels will need to move, but the available bandwidth for Freeview is the same, so I thought there would be no degradation in SD quality required?

    Also with HD, I thought Ofcom mentioned there would be 40.7Mb/s total bandwidth available (or ~10Mb/s per HD channel), due to the specific mode of DVB-T2 they're using?

  • Comment number 20.

    My figures in message 12 take into account the switch to 64QAM and have also been corrected for the benefits of statistical multiplexing and an encoder improvement of 10%. I was shocked to see that both HD and SD had such low bit rates. The figures were taken from this report which is I think is a bit out of date.


    In particular there is no mention of 5 HD channels so it looks as though it will be 4 HD channels in 2012. Another Ofcom document says 3 tv channels will be moved to mux 1 and not 4 as given in the original report. Still we get very low bit rates.

  • Comment number 21.

    Oh no, that's pretty disappointing then.

    It'd be good to find out what the BBC's plans are and what changes/happens during the switchover. It's so difficult finding those white papers and reading through the trawls of 'user trends' to get to the meat!

  • Comment number 22.

    The Finish Government has just announced 'DNA Oy' as the winner of the bid for two HD DTT multiplexes in the VHF band III - currently unused in Finland.
    DNA Oy is expected to start broadcasting in 2010, but maybe they will try to beat the BBC 'to the air'?
    All four bids for the license would use DVB-T2. The Nordig.org DVB-T2 spec. (Scandinavian D-Book) has already been updated with DVB-T2 requirements.
    In the case of the new HD mux in the UK, we should applaud the BBC, Ofcom and all around the new HD multiplex for their very hard work - over such a long time ! Keep up the good work!
    Lars :)
    @ trevorjharris : You calculations very much are out of line with reality. Just an example the DVB-T2 bit-rate expected are 36.1 Mbit/sec - very far from your quoted 27.2 Mbit/sec.

  • Comment number 23.


    "@ trevorjharris : You calculations very much are out of line with reality. Just an example the DVB-T2 bit-rate expected are 36.1 Mbit/sec - very far from your quoted 27.2 Mbit/sec."

    I think it's you who is out of touch, "trevorjharris" seems to have made those calculations based on the extra (fifth) HD channel that Ofcom now wants to squeeze in, has it not occurred to you why Finland is planing on using a currently unused part of the spectrum...

  • Comment number 24.

    It will never happen but for me Ofcom should be trying to improve quality not destroy it as it seems they want to do.

    Id get rid of the following SD channels, ITV 3 and 4 along with the +1 versions. Id say goodbye to BBC 4. Channel 4 +1 can go along with more 4 and also the +1 versions. For me these channels are not really needed and could free up some valuable space.

    As for the BBC and the SD bandwith reduction when it happens for SD, its clearly visable that the BBC does not care about bandwith and quality - THE HD CHANNEL IS A FINE EXAMPLE.

  • Comment number 25.


    "Id get rid of the following SD channels, ITV 3 and 4 along with the +1 versions. Id say goodbye to BBC 4. Channel 4 +1 can go along with more 4 and also the +1 versions. For me these channels are not really needed and could free up some valuable space."

    How about getting rid of the home shopping, pop-video and many of the radio (oh and lest not forget the, how can one get around the mods, lets say 'top-shelf') channels first? As for your list above, certainly the +1 channels could go but the rest have valid content - as for BBC4 - the problem there is that, like BBC3 (which would be my choice to axe...), it shares a mux with the CBeebies and CBBC channels so there isn't much saving to be had unless you close one of those kids channels to...

    The simplest and best way of getting a worthwhile HD service whilst maintaining decent quality for both DTT SD and HD services is for Ofcom (and by extension, the government) to abandon the thought of selling off the old analogue spectrum come completion of DSO in 2012 and use that or part of it for a decent HD service.

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree with wednesday83 - there is a vast amount of rubbish clogging up Freeview bandwidth that could be better used for 'real' TV.

    Scrap ALL the '+1' services...
    Scrap ALL the ridiculous 'casino' and 'chat' channels...
    Scrap FIVER and FIVE USA...
    Scrap Gems TV, Lottery Xtra, Russia Today and Sky 3...

    That should do for a start!

  • Comment number 27.

    Can you guarantee that we won't lose any SD channels to accommodate these HD channels?

    For many Digital Switchover was set to mean a more reliable signal and an increase in things like the number of BBCi streams available, to be at a level more comparable with Sky, so any loss in quality or channels to accommodate HD for what, at the moment, would be a minority of viewers, isn't going to be acceptable.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yes in the days of PVR "+1" services are a waist of space. Ofcom should just ban these.

    The BBC has been experimenting with MIMO for television. This requires people to get a new aerial and adapter but it does double the capacity giving over 62 Mbit/s on each multiplex. Ofcom seems to have rejected MIMO for now. It would probably delayed the introduction of HD.

  • Comment number 29.

    MIMO although technologically interesting is barking mad. Getting a new aerial is probably always going to cost around £100-200 including installation. At least with DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 and whatever other updates you use by getting people to buy new boxes there will be a choice between early adopters and later ones (where prices will fall).

    If you're talking about forcing the entire country to spend that kind of money you might as well go Satellite for those areas that can get it and leave the rest on whatever they can get.

  • Comment number 30.

    #29. At 2:38pm on 26 Jun 2009, ropies wrote:

    "MIMO [see comment #28] although technologically interesting is barking mad. Getting a new aerial is probably always going to cost around 100-200 including installation."

    But many people are being sold new aerials anyway for the current DSO, I'm sure that we have all been told or overheard comments with regards the need to have a 'Digital' aerials - an abuse that the BBC, Ofcom and the Digital TV Group seem to do little to stamp out.

  • Comment number 31.

    That's cowboy installers trying it on to make a bob or two. Making money out of a few gullible or vurnerable people is very different to forcing the entire population to get a new aerial. Citing people being taken advantage of is no sound or sane basis for justification for a policy. There are of course plenty of people that have wideband aerials as there has been a channel put in an out of band frequency, this is a tiny number compared to the roughly 25 million homes.

  • Comment number 32.

    #29 and 31

    I still don't see what your point is, sorry. People are still going to have to buy HD TVs with either a suitable built-in tuner or a STB/PVR, quite frankly the cost of a new aerial will be little on top of that little lot - especially if you also compare the the other options (HD-DVB-S) - you seem to be suggesting that new technology should be all but given away (both in monitory and technology terms), perhaps there is a case for that with SD DTT as the change is being forced upon us by government but is it true for HD, it's not as though people will be left without the ability to receive any TV, as is the case with DSO? Then again, if your rational does work then perhaps it should also be applied to subscription channels, think about it...

  • Comment number 33.

    The point is money. Nobody has to buy a new tv. No, really they don't. You're appealing to HD owners are awash with cash as an argument. Spending say £30 five years down the line is very different from spending £100-200 on an aerial. In anycase in general people are fairly loathe to spend money on an aerial and doing it through STBs is a better way of doing it. Not least because of second hand boxes etc. I've had freeview boxes I've given to other people. There's no equivalent in the aerial world. Long term box migrations is the only show in town I'm afraid. It'd be lovely to get double the capacity on those six muxes and MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 etc but you're asking private individuals to shell out large amounts of money. It's best done by boxes, not aerials. Some would still say that doing it by boxes is a cynical and unnacceptable shift from government funding to the citizen.

    People could spend £100-150 on a blu-ray player and be able to get hold of fairly large collections of high quality media for a small discrete continuous cost over time. They don't though.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33. At 8:30pm on 26 Jun 2009, ropies wrote:

    "There's no equivalent in the aerial world."

    That's what they also said in the 1960s when UHF transmissions were started, of course the UK could have gone down the route of using the VHF spectrum.

    "but you're asking private individuals to shell out large amounts of money. It's best done by boxes, not aerials."

    Oh right, so it's OK to expect people to buy a new STB, TV or PVR but some how it's not OK for them to have to buy a new aerial - come on - has it not occurred to you that those who will be taking up the HD-DVB-T platform will be those who can't (for what ever reason) use the DVB-S platform but almost certainly would do if they could (who would choose to limit themselves to four or five HD channels when any number are available via satellite), thus the cost of a new aerial and STB will actually be within the same price range as an outright purchase of a non tied satellite package. Also, don't forget that economies of scale will bring the price of 'MIMO' aerials down, just as they did with UHF aerials all those years before.

    Sorry, but erecting straw men to have arguments with is best left to old farmer Brown!

    HD does not belong on the same spectrum as the current SD Freeview services, not only will the HD service be less than optimal but it will also destroy the SD DTT service for the masses - oh look, isn't that were we came in?...

  • Comment number 35.

    That wasn't what I meant at all when I said there's no equivalent to giving away freeview boxes. People don't routintely give away their old rooftop aerials when they get them realigned or a new one put in because you have to have the thing installed on the roof and that takes effort or money. It doesn't happen. It does happen with freeview boxes, routinely. When we go through the DVB-T2/MPEG-4 thing the old freeview boxes will get relegated to second sets or given to friends/relatives. Same thing happens when people buy PVRs. It's an important mechanism for spreading freeview and will be an important mechanism during any migration where two different systems are running.

    I've explained very clearly why I think there is a difference between buying a new STB and buying an aerial. It being cost, if you don't see that we aren't going to agree. I've also said that unfortunately people in this country are rather phobic about spending money on aerials. If MIMO wasn't so prohibitively expensive I would think it a wonderful solution. In a semi-perfect world it would be.

    The economies of scale for MIMO aerials is a nonsense. Much of the cost is installation and prices remain totally static relative to STB prices, which are far from static. The aerial may come down in price slowly, the installation costs which are the important bit will mean it'll always tot up to being a big cost.

    I quite agree on the points of freeview, myself being a long time critic of freeview HD, the flogging off of spectrum, the deterioration of picture quality, Ofcom's creative accounting and BBC protestations aside, the sheer madness of it. The proposed system just won't work, there's not enough bandwidth there and HD only channels would not be a politically or commercially acceptable solution.

    You can't really extrapolate what the motivation for wanting HD freeview is. There will be people that can't get cable or satellite. There will be people who could and end up getting freeview HD anyway as it is there and they have the money to spend to be an early adopter. The point about limiting themselves to four or five HD channels is also rather mute. There's large amounts of anecdotal evidence that there is a very large demographic that want the "terrestrial five" in HD for free. They don't want any other channels in HD and certainly don't want to have to pay for them. With respect to the BBC at some point in the future nearly all there stuff will be downloadable. C4 don't have anybody working on high def download but have said at some point they will.

  • Comment number 36.

    #35. At 02:14am on 27 Jun 2009, ropies wrote:

    "I've explained very clearly why I think there is a difference between buying a new STB and buying an aerial."

    Sorry but you haven't, you are still putting up straw man arguments.

    There was a case for making DVB-T (Freeview) compatible with existing aerials etc. due to the fact that DSO is being forced upon viewers by government policy, making a simple 'plug-and-play' STB the obvious solution, the same is not true for any HD service, HD TV is an extra service. Want HD DVB-T then pay it and if that means a new aerial, just like people have to pay for a satellite dish if they want to access satellite TV services...

    In the 1960/70s if people wanted the new colour TV services - which is a good comparison to use - they had to buy both a new TV and aerial (plus installation), the costs then were comparable to the cost of a proper terrestrial HD television service would be now (without crippling the existing service).

    There's large amounts of anecdotal evidence that there is a very large demographic that want the "terrestrial five" in HD for free."

    Of course, most people would 'want' free access to all the BSkyB subscription channels too no doubt if they were asked a loaded question, most people would prefer NOT to have to pay the television licence fee, most people will want anything for 'free' - as I said, stop arguing with straw men...

  • Comment number 37.

    The Ofcom report linked to here is way out of date; it's from October 2007, before the DVB-T2 standard was finished, and well before the first live demos of the technology, which were at IBC in Amsterdam last year.

    The demo mux there was showing excellent pictures, with three channels on a mux; bitrate of the transport stream was 36.14MBps, and the Ofcom handout talked not of five channels but of a fourth service "possible in time"

    As for upgrading aerials, yes, I too think that a lot of people will decide that if they can buy a box that gets HD with their existing aerial, they'll go for it. But if they had to get someone out (and plenty may have heard horror stories about cowboys in the run up to DSO, remember) and spend another 100 quid or more, then they'll decide not to.

    Some people don't think TV is the hub of their home life; a bit of HD at a reasonable price is all they want, so yes, I'd choose to go with terrestrial rather than satellite. Partly that's because I'm one of those people who thinks a dish is just a little bit vulgar (not to mention the distribution issues around the home). If I can get the main channels in HD, that's fine for me, frankly. And if I can do it without spending an extra 100 quid getting in a man with a ladder, even better.


  • Comment number 38.

    Re: +1 - yes, I suppose we could live without them, but even with PVRs they still come in handy as however many channels there are, you can guarantee you'll go all week with nothing decent to watch and then suddenly 3 programmes at once.

    The problem here is simple - taking one mux for HD effectively means that content from 3.5 PSB muxes is being shoved into 2 (as Five need to move too), while the commercial muxes end up with more space than they need really.

    Considering now the PSB/commercial split is roughly 3.5:2.5, taking one mux away for HD could work if that split was changed to 3:2, without any major issues. But the way it's being done is frankly compromising the Freeview platform as a whole.

  • Comment number 39.


    "If I can get the main channels in HD, that's fine for me, frankly. And if I can do it without spending an extra 100 quid getting in a man with a ladder, even better.

    But never mind the quality, as I said previously, a crippled DVB-T SD and HD service will be worse than the existing DVB-T SD service...

  • Comment number 40.

    None of what I've written is a straw man, I'm afraid you need to study some maths and logic. You're taking points I've explained clearly and warping them. You don't actually know what a straw man is.

    In reverse order, the "terrestrial five" people aren't interested in Sky. I implied this in post #35. In that context your points are irrelevent to what I wrote. In terms of universal access I explained that as we're talking years in the future there is the streaming via broadband angle. BBC HD already offers a limited service launched recently, channel 4 commented about this matter the other day. There's also IPTV.

    In the 1960s, engineers designed the broadcast system very well to work for a certain number of channels, future proofing. The assumptions were very conservative that you would spend a great deal of money on a properly installed aerial and the whole thing was thought out carefully. That has virtually nothing whatsoever in common with either digital era or HD where industry and regulator are making it up as they go along in a much less robust fashion. Least of all like I said nobody wants to spend any money on an aerial, people in the analogue era got quite used to abuses 60s engineers would frown upon like using indoor aerials. The idea of getting people to spend serious amounts of money on aerials is decades out of date in my opinion. Similarly comparing costs for one totally different product from a few decades ago to today is interesting but not a lot of use. Wine and motoring are cheaper today, people still complain about them endlessly. People would not be happy going back to 1960s prices.

    Why is there not a case for a STB solution for any HD service? At launch say theoretically the price for some new box running a dual would be £100. After a few years it would probably fall to £20-30. I see that as a solution to a totally messed up problem.

    I just don't fundamentally agree about HD being an extra service. In anycase DTT does contain extras in that sense such as TUTV and might have included things like Picnic.

  • Comment number 41.


    "None of what I've written is a straw man, I'm afraid you need to study some maths and logic."

    Don't be so patronising, if anyone doesn't understand it's you.

    "I just don't fundamentally agree about HD being an extra service."

    Yes it is, just as DVB-S is, that's why you're the one putting up straw man arguments.

  • Comment number 42.

    Nigel Whitfield, people know about IBC08, the BBC even had a blog on it last year! Three HD channels sharing 36Mbs between them at 11Mbs is very different from cramming 4 or even 5 HD channels on a mux. That is the issue. Three works. Five doesn't. In anycase for people like me who didn't go to Amsterdam like you, we are rather loathe to believe the BBC on this when their current encoders are so incredibly poor. I've said they should be running encoders now at about 12Mbs that are as good or better than the current 16Mbs. The problem is even on Sky Tandberg encoders once you go down to about 7-8Mbs you run into serious problems with a big drop in quality. I don't want a shoddy freeview HD service, nor do I want BBC HD on other platforms having to duplicate these silly bitrates for platform neutrality (although there seem to have been noises on that recently that might not be the case).

    The other thing about this debate is that what about getting any of COM1, COM2 and COM3 onto DVB-T2 & MPEG-4. There are going to be some very tough choices having to be made.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ Ropies. Did you not see the post from Andy Quested? He believes you can get good HD at under 6mbps haha. BBCs attempt at justifying the poor encoders and bit rates I think.

    For me with the encoders the BBc are using now it should be running @20mbps. The current 16 mbps clearly is not good enough and the quality is just not there. Ok some slow stuff like atiques roadshow looks good. But stuff like sport and grastonbury dont.

    The beeb for me to upgrade encodoers to the ones used by Sky and run at around 14mbps (upping it when sport is on to anything upto 20mnbps as sky do).

    For HD on all platforms there should be no more than 3 channels on a transponder for me - end of. Bandwith should never go below 12mbps.

    Id also forget HD on Freeview. its clearly going to be a pointless exercise when theres talk of 5 channels on a trasponder and bandwith going as low as they are saying. freeview HD is going to cripple SD and this should not happen.

    For me they should get rid of stupic pointless channels as already mentioned and up the quality of SD and Leave HD to Sky and other companies.

    I remeber when the BBC HD first started out. They took Picture quality seriously. Now they just dont give a damn and the post by BBC members for me shows this.

    HD is starting to go down the pan and it needs saving and FAST.

  • Comment number 44.

    for all the tech savy people here i fink it werth pointing out:

    its Mbps (Megabit Per Second) Not mbps (mibibit Per Second)

    and "Mpeg4" is officially designated as the very first Video codec to use it as DivX or Xvid if your want to include the family.

    "AVC" (Advanced Video Codec) is becoming the common use for all current and future part10 so use that everywere, as is "AAC" (Advanced Audio Codec)

    or at least Everyone here (to help inform all non tech readers) should be at least consider using "Mpeg4-AVC" or "Mpeg4-part10" to be clear on this and stop the salesmen taking advantage of the average users now and later, you dont get Divx being used commercially in broadcasting so stop using "MPEG4" AVC easyer to type and makes it clearer to everyone....IMO at least.

  • Comment number 45.

    Graham Plumb, Head of Distribution Technology, BBC Operations Group said "Although everything is still on track against plans, there are significant technical and contractual challenges not least to get transmission and domestic receiver equipment through design , development and delivery stages within an ambitious timescale."

    and there lies the problem it seems, all this is being run, and dreamed up as you go along by the PR looking to sell anything p;d they can find and label it Innovative,Bean Counters looking to only the quarters
    profits, and Jobswerth's looking to advance and entrench their positions...

    WERE Exactly are the techs in this picture looking for the next 20 years use and mandating CURRENT and near future (for inclusion within the Analogue turn off time frame).

    Graham, You dont even state if your outline above includes mandated [ratified] DVB-T2 from day one,with its 36Mbs bandwidth THAT is inline with the DVB-C(2) and DVB-S(2) mux.

    that is after all, why all the digital broadcasters want that 36Mbs , so their core mux sizes are compatable across all digital platforms and they can start using TCP/IP to move this core data around on the cheap with far more cost savings to them all..., for final delivery to the end users no matter what the DVB platform used...

    so lets take a closer look at your "domestic receiver equipment through design, development" comment, so it would seem although the core part of all this the AVC decoder SOC(Sysyem On a Chip)has been available for a very long time now, (indeed they have gone few several refinements not least got a lossless mode for Encoding and Decoding etc as included and used by the freeware x264 Encoder users world wide today).

    these chips were available well BEFORE you and the Govt decided to NOT mandate AVC/H.264/MPeg4-part10, as a baseic Core requirement READY for ALL new UK kit FOR the Final analogue switch off, why was that exactly ?, to increase the maximum long tail profits for HW update cycles perhaps ?

    and what of the requirements long term for two way interactivity on these DVB consumer boxs, wht too wasnt that mandated as a base requirement, theres cheap long range wimax SOC available today and for a long time now too.

    that could have been the core mandated base interactivity , and some of that analogue spectrum could be alocated for Exactly that "long term" interactive generic 36Mbs+ backhaul bandwidth terestial purpose....

    through for example the existing under used 3rd party UK wide wimax licences in manchester/Winter Hill transmitter areas https://www.freedom4.com/pg.asp?p=home

    freedom4 Wimax being used until and as the anologue spectrums around the country became available for this DVB-T(2)wimax backhaul to be used there instead....

    put simply IF Ofcom (that were formed to look after the consumers Interests NOt the UK PLC corporations lets not forget) and the Govt were not so intent on a quick £££ fire sale of the peoples airwaves property before the worlds cash/recession crisis then we might stand a chance to Grow long term the digital inventory across the world, they should be for more concerned NOW OC as theres not so much UK cash around so its all US. main land EU and increasingly far east cash that will buy ion to this foiresale.

    its simple for the long term Viable terestial digital Future, WE NEED a large proportion of the reclaimed analogue for Both HD growth , AND this mandated two High throughput interactivity

    remember its about planning NOW and ALLOWING FOR the LONG term UK FUTURE interactive wireless backhaul, not just crumby 10Kb key presses for adverts inventory your , witout considering this vital interactive backhail in the the initial analogue switch off , its a shame old NTL/VM and PR boy lord carter didnt see fit to even allow for this i nthe wider digital britain report, but then he like most are only concerned withe his VM US chums and the next quarters returns as hert.

    its pritty basic, stop all sales of the analogue reclamation,allocate at least 50% of that to current and future UK wide HD+ , include at least 2 permanent fixed UK wide trials frequences for R&D use,etc....

    for the perposes of this Winter Hill transmitter covering manchester and liverppol, and your "industry-wide commitment to rolling out Freeview HD as soon as possible" id want to see this UK contingent provide a REAL COMMITMENT to the futre FOR DAY ONE, that means at the very least, the initial Prototype you mantate and they all copy as fr east OEMs ...

    ALL boxes Must include an AVC SOC capable of at least H:L4.1.
    All boxes Must include a 10/100/1000 1 gig Ethernet Chipset.
    All boxes Must have a Generic wireless 11n/Wimax chipset and active Web GUI to use it.
    All Boxes Must include Multicasting activated firmware and available inside an internal web page for Whole Home LAN connectivity TO and FROM any Lan connected Device that wants to stream this and their content to this box on onto the HDTV its attached to.

    lots more OC , but with these as a basic BOM (Built of Materials) your looking at perhaps £3.50 at Most per box, well werth the cost when you consider the long term usabability these basic things bring to both end users paying for these base STBs ,and the services 3rd parys could built from these interactive Inout/output activated for even the most tech scared users to take advantage of later....

  • Comment number 46.

    So the BBC is going to make our Freeview Plasma/LCD TVs and PVRs obsolete and make us chuck away all or FM radios!

    Which planet are they on. High time that some market forces were allowed into the hallowed world of the BBC and we'd soon see how popular all this is!

    The BBC needs to wake up that IP networks are the future, and fixed-function devices will give way to HTPCs.

  • Comment number 47.


    "So the BBC is going to make our Freeview Plasma/LCD TVs and PVRs obsolete and make us chuck away all or FM radios!"

    Don't shoot the messenger, whilst the BBC might well be developing the systems (and indeed hardware) in partnership with the manufactures the UK's future broadcasting policies are being formulated by Ofcom and central government.

    As has been pointed out within the above reader comments, which I accept that you might not have read prior to posting your own comments, had Govt. and/or Ofcom decided that the existing analogue spectrums would carry on being used for television/radio services after DSO rather than being sold off as part of the 'digital dividend' the future of digital television - both SD and HD - and radio would have a lot brighter outlook in the UK (no pun intended).

  • Comment number 48.

    To be fair to the BBC this is OFCOM's foolish idea, not theres - but what still doesn't make sense to me is how one day all broadcasters were against it, instead campaigning for an extra mux or two to be created for HD - and then suddenly they did a U-Turn and fell into line.

    As new equipment is needed anyway, it makes much more sense to make Freesat the HD option, and it wouldn't cost those who want HD for free much more than buying the new Freeview HD equipment - and more importantly, wouldn't cost Freeview viewers the loss of any channels or quality from the SD service.

    The planned HD offering is so pathetic it's not worth it - even just the BBC already have far more HD content than they can fit onto one channel, and that's not considering people probably expecting channels like Film4, ITV2 and Five US to be in HD sooner rather than later.

    And for those of us in Wales the situation is even worse. Digital switchover was meant to be an end to the C4/S4C clashes, with separate channels for each service - yet now with HD their channels will be merged again.

  • Comment number 49.

    @Graham Plumb: Thanks for replying to my question!

  • Comment number 50.

    When will we be able to buy Freeview HD decoders capable of decoding 1080p50, and when will programmes be broadcast in that format?

    Also, can Ofcom be persuaded to stop selling off the UK's TV bandwidth so that it can instead be used for high quality, high bitrate Freeview HD programming?

  • Comment number 51.

    i notice Graham Plumb, 'Head of Distribution Technology, BBC Operations Group.' and initiator of this thread has Not posted ANY replys to the many questions raised in this thread in all this time.

    Why Is That Graham ?, are you and Seetha Kumar 'Controller, BBC Online' both taking lessons in the covert BBC bloggers initative (I.E post once per thread as the BBC insider OP on these BBC interactive blogs , then say nothing in reply of any substance there after)

    or are you both founding members of this new 'covert BBC bloggers initative' perhaps. :)

    anyway , moving on in the hopes that at least Someone inside the BBC has the courtesy, conviction and general good mannors to give at least some form of werthwhile reply on a regular basis to the many question put we Need answers too regarding the DVB-T(2) HD transmissions and the basic kit we NEED to make use of The Transmissions etc to the best of Your or your internal bbc teams tech ability.

    1: regarding the EU Viviane Reding, the information and media commissioner's directive in this news item
    "Regional mobile broadband to be created by EU following huge interest in the service
    by greg on August 5, 2009
    A number of European regulators have agreed to share out the spectrum they have more fairly, rather than auctioning it off to the highest bidder. This will allow the spectrum to be used throughout Europe for the current 3G mobile networks and the future 4G networks when they are implemented. This will give mobile phone users the chance to access the internet in the same way as home broadband users currently do, which will be seen as welcome news by many consumers.

    Once the GSM directive, which was approved by the Council of Ministers, [b]becomes law in September the Government will have just six months to roll out the measures that have been outlined in it[/b]

    does ANY of this "GSM Directive recently approved access to new spectrum for advanced data" spectrum as coveed by the 6 months directive Include ANY already earmarked UK Analogue TV spectrum that was for auctioning it off to the highest bidder ? and now the EU directive is due in sep 2009
    , just a few weeks away now, how does it effect the BBC winterhill HD plans In ANY way before the 6 months timeline is need to be met.

    totally unrelated to the above as such but:
    2: regarding the DVB-T2 and your CC policys regarding content you produce were possible, were might we get a selection of High speed HD 1080P and the up and coming 2K and 4K super HD under a BBC CC licence BBC super HD filmed real life high speed/framrate content for free distribution and use for the purposes of AVC/H.264 Encoding and evaluation such as the limited CGI bigbuck bunny and Elephants dream are used freely today.

    there is a real Need for a wide selection of lossless high speed real life, short sequenced 2k and 4k professional grade camera content for the worlds x264 AVC Encoder testers, can we get some freely ditributable content as above from you, the UKs BBC as the worlds first TV innovator to help us, if so were can we find it , a direct URL to such Current highest possible masters of BBC HD,2k,4k content released under the CC would be good.

  • Comment number 52.

    Graham given its been ove rtwo months since you posted the original thread information can you Please make the time to at least inform the readers here...

    what exactly is the status and supply chain retail readyness
    of the DVB-T2 devices for the UK, as of today please.

    from the end users perspective, it does not seem like any of the worlds OEMs are even geared up for manufacture of these required DVB-T2 devices, never mind actually able to supply to the mainstream Uk retailers, ready before and for the BBC's HD DVB-T2 transmissions in 3 months time in the NW from the Winter Hill transmitter.

    if not Graham Plumb, the Head of Distribution Technology, BBC Operations Group.

    perhaps SOMONE anyone? in the BBC reading this thread can at least find out the important information, and post back here to let people know this important BBC DVB-T2 transmission thread is not yet another thread thats been left to die by its initial BBC Employee...

  • Comment number 53.

    Some of the Bloggers are away on holiday. I have posted many times about the poor picture quality DTT HD is going to give due to putting 5 channels on multiplex B. Well ITV HD is now transmitting at 960x1080 pixels on satellite ie half horizontal resolution so things are just getting worst.

  • Comment number 54.

    From what I understand, when HD comes to Freeview then SD channels my suffer because of limited bandwidth. In order to "free up" more bandwidth for HD, why not switch of the numerous garbage channels that have an almost zero audience!

  • Comment number 55.

    Here, here.

    I'd be quite happy to have 15 or fewer channels on Freeview in HD, and you can keep the other 40 or so 'conduits of guff'.

    Anyone that WANTS more shopping channels, or repeats can CHOOSE to have them. See how long they last when they are no longer smuggled into peoples homes.

    If we insist on more choice, when can we have a channel with rain failing on a window pane, or clothes going round in a washing machine...?

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm not at all happy about the way this has been handled, but can see why.
    HMG in the form of Ofcom believes in "The Market" and is craven in the face of commercial interests.
    It is a regulator that doesn't really believe in regulating, - well not in the way that the old IBA did, at least. Rather than mandate subjective standards it is letting the quality "float" so that viewing/listening public will make their own cost:benefit analysis. The reasoning presumably is that a multiplex/ensemble operator that gets too greedy will lose punters and wither on the vine, as has already happened with DAB.
    Multiplex B is merely intended to "seed" the market and encourage commercial enterprises to bid for additional spectrum against non-broadcast services like WiMax.
    They are following the well-worn "format boredom" and perpetual-upgrade-cycle methodology the electronic entertainment industry has used over decades. Freeview HD will be incrementally "better" than SD rather than a huge leap in experience and will attract the wealthy/over-optimistic punters as early adopters while the kit is new and expensive, and eventually the rest of us once the price itself becomes incremental.
    In one way you could see this as learning from history, but alternatively you could view this as a cop out when faced with trumpeting an initiative that could fail embarassingly, like OnDigital, and it's a gift to Sky and to a lesser extent Virgin and FreeSat. A rump service for refusniks.
    It's also tantamount to a conspiracy with the hardware channels not to queer their pitch by revealing the obsolescence of their kit during the pre/post-Christmas spending frenzy:
    I've been round a few major retailers in these last couple of weeks before Christmas, and asked them about their "HD Freeview" TVs. NONE of them understood what I was talking about when I asked if the kit was upgradable to DVB-T2/MPEG4. NONE of them knew that our local TX, Kilvey Hill, would carry HD from before March 2010
    The public are being taken for suckers because Ofcom, Ministry of Truth and broadcasters are not willing to be decisive and lead the process with clarity.

  • Comment number 57.

    BBC HD Freesat

    What are the plans to roll out additional HD BBC channels on the Freesat platform?
    Or expressed differently, when will BBC1 become BBC1 HD, BBC2 HD etc.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    So you need a Freeview HD TV...So why did I shell out on an HD ready TV in the first place. I thought the whole reason to have an HD ready TV was so I could get HD when the transmission system switched over at somepoint.

    No one said that later on the line I would have to get an HD Freeview box (Which I thought I had dispensed with when I got my Freeview TV) or a new HD Freeview TV.

    What a con.

  • Comment number 60.

    I see that the BBC exploring with OFCOM the provision on another HD channel in 2010

    I didn't see any reference to Freesat though. Would this additional channel also be on Freesat?

  • Comment number 61.

    Which Magazine are at it again

    Which? did spot some differences between the Freeview HD and Freesat. According to one expert: 'The main difference was that the Freesat had a marginally better level of sharpness, which gave it better depth and sparkle over the Freeview HD signal.'

    According to one Which? tester, 'If Freesat were rated 10, the Freeview HD would be 8 or 8.5.'

    Both Which? experts noted instances of subtle colour banding, known as solarisation. Though this wasn't deemed to be too serious it's the kind of subtle picture quality difference that may show up in more controlled viewing conditions.

    Contradicts what some others have said...

    Doesn't bode well then for Freeview HD, given what many people think about Freesat HD PQ.

  • Comment number 62.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 63.

    Yes everyone who bought a TV with Freeview built in will need an extra box to receive HD and so TVs capable of receiving Freeview HD out of the box need to have a clear sticker.https://www.seslichatailesi.net/


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