Anticipation growing over Freesat launchSatellite service will rival other digital options

28 April 2008

A man sat watching a widescreen TV

Some online DVD rental services offer film downloads to rent

Speculation is growing about the imminent launch of Freesat, the free-to-air satellite service jointly provided by the BBC and ITV.

It’s due to be launched this spring and rumours are growing that the service will finally go live next month.

Freesat will be aimed at TV viewers who have been unable to access Freeview - the free-to-air digital terrestrial service launched in 2002 - or who don't want to sign up to a Sky or cable subscription.

Satellite dish

To use Freesat viewers will have to make a one-off payment for a digital box, satellite dish and installation.

There'll be over 80 channels and you'll be able to buy the necessary equipment from high street stores like Comet, Currys, John Lewis and Argos.

Another advantage of Freesat is that it will offer at least two high-definition TV (HDTV) channels for free.

High definition

However, to receive HDTV programmes you’ll also need an HD-ready TV set and an HD digital box.

Which? technology editor Matthew Bath said: ‘Freesat has been a long time coming, but it will offer viewers a greater choice of programmes, and deliver free-to-view high-definition TV programmes to the UK.

‘That spells good news for people who own HDTVs, but who have been reluctant to pay for a subscription to either Sky or Virgin to watch HD content.

‘However, viewers will need to buy new equipment to view Freesat, which may hamper its plans for widespread adoption, and keep viewers glued to traditional Freeview TV. We'll have to wait-and-see how the BBC and ITV plan to price the service.’