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Al Jazeera to launch HD service as UK DTT expands into 600MHz

Al Jazeera logoAl Jazeera is to launch an HD service on the Freeview platform in the UK following the award by Ofcom of two new HD digital-terrestrial multiplexes in the 600MHz frequency band to transmission services provider Arqiva in July.

The BBC has already announced that it will launch five new HD services – BBC News, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC – on the platform by early 2014, but Al Jazeera is the first non-public service broadcaster to announce its plans.

Ofcom said in July it would create space for up to 10 new HD services in the 600MHz band. The capacity is expected to be used “on an interim basis” ahead of the likely reallocation of the 700MHz band – the current home of DTT services – to mobile broadband applications, something that is not expected to happen before 2018. New services using the 600MHz spectrum must be broadcast in DVB-T2, meaning that households must be equipped with T2 receivers to watch them.

Al Jazeera English will be available to 50% of UK households, including coverage in all four UK nations.

Arqiva has said that broadcast coverage of the new HD multiplexes will extend to 70% of UK households by the time of the 2014 Wimbledon tennis tournament.

The 600MHz spectrum was cleared of analogue TV on a region-by-region basis during the UK digital switchover programme.

Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English said, “Our partnership with Arqiva lets us provide the highest quality journalism with the highest quality picture and technical standards.  This means our viewers will have an even clearer picture of our in-depth eyewitness reporting from our 70 bureaus across the globe, and of our documentaries and programmes on the issues that matter to people in the UK.”

Mike Finchen, director of digital platforms at Arqiva, said, “Audiences today demand more and higher quality content. We believe these new HD channels will provide a major impetus to the continued and strong uptake of Freeview HD TVs. This is an exciting first step in the launch of more HD channels on Freeview.”