Free TV How do I get HD TV channels?
What is Freeview HD?
Freeview HD is a television service that gives you high-definition channels via your existing TV aerial. The channels are free once you have bought Freeview HD equipment – you don't need to sign up to a monthly subscription or contract.
- To watch Freeview HD, you'll need one of the following:
- a Freeview HD set-top box
- a Freeview HD personal video recorder (PVR)
- a TV with built-in Freeview HD.
What are the benefits of HD TV?
HD TV is a new standard of TV with better picture and sound quality than standard-definition TV – more like the quality you'd see at a cinema. HD offers more colour and a higher picture resolution. This can make HD TV images clearer, sharper, more detailed and more lifelike.
HD is one of the most significant developments in TV in recent years but remember, in order to watch it, you'll need an HD-ready TV.
See how the latest HD-ready models rated in our lab tests in the Which? LCD and plasma TV reviews.
Which HD channels are available on Freeview HD?
HD channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are available on Freeview HD, along with S4C HD in Wales. Not all programmes from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are broadcast in HD, but there’s a wide range of content available, from wildlife documentaries to sporting events. Channel Five had planned to be on Freeview HD by the end of 2010, but there there is no news on when this channel will be appearing in the future.
The recently introduced BBC One HD channel shows high-definition versions of BBC One shows, whilst BBC HD currently shows nine hours of HD programmes daily between 4pm and 1am, including popular shows such as Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing. ITV1 HD shows some programmes in Full HD, while others are remastered to give you sharper, clearer pictures. 4HD includes films and a mix of UK and US shows.
In addition to the HD channels, Freeview gives you access to up to around 50 channels in standard definition.
Freeview HD coverage
Freeview HD transmissions began in December 2009 in London and were rolled out to Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle in 2010.
The rest of the country will receive the service in line with their digital switchover dates. Freeview claims 98.5% of the UK will have received Freeview HD by 2012.
Until relatively recently, HD wasn’t possible on Freeview because there was insufficient airwave spectrum available. The digital switchover means that analogue channels are being switched off, freeing up airwave space and making an HD signal via Freeview possible.
What TV equipment do you need to get Freeview HD?
The first Freeview HD equipment hit the shops in February 2010 when Humax launched the HD FOX T2, the first Freeview HD box for sale in the UK, at a cost of around £180. Freeview HD set-top boxes are now available from other manufacturers such as Bush, Sagem and Metronic. There are also Freeview HD PVRs available, if you'd like to record your favourite shows in high definition.
The main TV manufacturers, including Panasonic, Toshiba, LG, Sony, Sharp and Samsung, have all launched TVs with integrated Freeview HD tuners. This is a more expensive option than buying a set-top box or PVR, but might be worth considering if you're looking to buy a new TV anyway. Whilst TVs with Freeview HD tuners were sold at a premium initially, we would expect the technology to be integrated into more and more models and become standard within a couple of years.
Will my existing Freeview equipment stop working?
Existing Freeview boxes and PVRs will not be able to receive HD broadcasts, but don’t panic at the prospect of having to buy yet more new TV equipment. You only need to buy new equipment if you specifically want to watch Freeview in HD.
If you’re already set up for digital switchover and you don't want to watch in HD, you don’t need to do a thing. Your existing Freeview set-top box and TV will carry on working as they do now – you just won’t be able to use them to watch HD television.
Other HD TV options
There are other HD services available, but unlike Freeview HD these will require either a satellite dish or access to cable TV:
- Sky Digital (requires a satellite dish)
- Virgin Media
- Freesat (requires a satellite dish).
Freesat offers BBC and ITV HD channels while Virgin and Sky have a much wider variety of HD channels available.