Despite the fact that millions of homes have televisions which are HD ready, they continue to watch programmes in standard definition. However, this has changed since Freeview HD has arrived. This is a service that aims not only to provide the usual SD channels as Freeview has always hosted, but it will allow people to watch programmes from Channel 4, ITV, BBC and, eventually, Five, in HD.
This upgrade in definition will be entirely free of charge with no additional subscription necessary, though anyone who wishes to be able to see the new HD channels will require purchasing HD set top boxes. Alternatively, a television with a new HD receivers can be purchased instead, when it becomes available. Old tuners cannot decode the HD signals and, therefore, will only be able to receive the previous SD channels.
December 2009 saw the Granada TV region adapt to the Freeview HD service and it initially saw only two new channels - ITV1 HD and BBC HD. The latter channel already shows a number of its popular programmes in HD as per Freesat, such as Being Human, Hustle, Mad Men and Survivors. ITV1 HD will take on the form of a sort of upscale simulcast of the SD channel that previously existed.
Channel 4 HD, on the other hand, is to join the service towards the end of 2010, with Five joining the service sometime in 2012.
Humax Freeview HD is the first compatible box that has been shown on the market. Humax currently is known for manufacturing a Freesat STB and has most recently finalised the HD-FOX T2 box, featuring HDMI output, and Ethernet jack, an MPEG-4 decoder, as well as a USB port.
Other such hardware is available, such as Panasonic Freeview HD and other set top boxes from , LG and Grundig. It is vital to obtain new bits of hardware when making the move to Freeview HD, considering it is based on the newest European DVB-T2 standard of transmission. This uses MPEG-4 compression, as opposed to the old format used by DVB-T, the MPEG-2 compression that hogged plenty of bandwidth.
Unfortunately, Freeview HD does not show its programmes in the complete 1080p resolution, though, because the BBC HD and C4 HD channels do transmit its programmes as such, it will come in a 1080i resolution instead.
Before the arrival of Freeview HD, only a small handful of other options existed for those who wished to obtain HD channels. However, two of the three different options required a new subscription, the third option being Freesat.
Freesat users needed only pay for a box and for installation, though HD services were limited overall, only showing BBC HD, as well as a red button service calling for certain programmes at certain times to be viewed in HD on ITV.
Virgin Media has expanded on its HD offerings quite significantly, offering BBC HD, FX HD, MTV HD, Living HD, Channel 4 HD, ESPN HD and National Geographic HD, not to mention a rather extensive library of HD programmes. This does, however, all cost extra.
Likewise, Sky offers around 34 channels of HD programming, including movie channels and premium sports, though this too requires extra payment and is subscription based.
One other option include utilizing services on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, both of which offer a library of HD content, which is far extensive and offers numerous popular shows, though they can only typically be rented for a fee.
As it can be seen, the best option to work with is Freeview HD. In time, it will likely grow to be as extensive in its choice of programmes and will retain its specially low cost of free. All it takes to obtain the convenient services that Freeview HD has to offer is as simple as getting one of the newly developed HD set top boxes, either by Panasonic, Humax, Grundig, LG or Pace.
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