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UK broadcasters join forces in DTT high definition trial

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MUMBAI: UK broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five have joined forces to launch the UK's first high definition (HD) trial broadcasts to terrestrial aerials.

A specially selected 450-strong audience sample have collected their trial HD set top boxes (STBs) for the closed technical digital terrestrial television (DTT) technical trial, which is due to last six months.

HD, the parties state, is a step change in television technology, which provides far clearer and more detailed pictures than normal standard definition TV. Each picture contains up to five times as much digital information as an ordinary TV picture.

The trial will offer participating broadcasters and their technical partners valuable lessons about delivering HD broadcasts on a digital terrestrial network and also research how the audience enjoys this new format.

It will help to discover whether there could be HD broadcasts on Freeview in future. The trial is being conducted under an Ofcom licence, which strictly limits the number of receivers and forbids reception of the trial stream by general members of the public. Humax and Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) have supplied the HD set top boxes for the trial.

The DTT HD trial consists of low power transmissions from Crystal Palace in London on frequencies that are not suitable for high power broadcasting.

National Grid Wireless (NGW) is transmitting the BBC's HD stream, which went on air last month, and Red Bee Media provides play-out services.

Arqiva is transmitting the multiplex shared by ITV, Channel 4 and Five, with Grass Valley, a business within Thomson, providing broadcast playout and video encoding equipment.

Siemens Business Services is providing technical support for the BBC's HD trial. The test broadcasts will use MPEG4 video coding, 8K carriers and 64QAM modulation at launch – different parameters may be tested during the trial period.

The BBC's trial DTT HD stream will offer identical programming to its HD trial broadcasts on satellite and cable over the trial period.

That includes the BBC's World Cup coverage, major Wimbledon matches and programming highlights such as Planet Earth and Bleak House.

ITV will offer its own World Cup coverage in HD, completing the full line-up of World Cup games, as well as drama such as Agatha Christie's Poirot specials Death on the Nile and Murder in Mesopotamia, documentaries such as Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Adventures and classic films including All Quiet on the Western Front and The Big Sleep.

Channel 4's HD trial broadcasts will include hit US drama series Lost and Desperate Housewives, FilmFour films and other Channel 4 programming.

Five will be showing episodes of CSI in addition to commissioned programmes such as Tim Marlow at MOMA and movies like Cocktail.

Research company TNS Media is conducting the research. The audience panel was selected from online volunteers who registered on a website in April. All had existing HD Ready television sets and will be supplied with special DTT HD set top boxes.

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