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10 new HD channels for Freeview as Ofcom backs BBC plan

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom is backing the BBC and friends in calling for up to 10 more HD channels on Freeview.

There's only one thing better than high definition -- and that's high definition for free. Telecoms watchdog Ofcom is backing the BBC and friends in calling for up to 10 more HD channels on Freeview.

The BBC, Channel 4 and broadcasting infrastructure company Arqiva want to add 10 more HD channels to Freeview to tempt telly addicts into upgrading their set-top boxes to HD kit.

Why? It's all about airwaves. TV broadcasters and mobile phone networks are squabbling over the same spectrum, because they both want lower-frequency signals that can travel further and beam into buildings.

After some confusion over airwaves during the switch from old-fashioned analogue telly to 4G, Ofcom is looking far, far in advance -- to 5G, the next, next generation of super-fast mobile Internet. The telecoms watchdog already plans to sell the 700MHz frequency to mobile operators in 2018 to carry 5G signals.

The problem is, the 700MHz band is currently used for digital terrestrial TV (DTT) -- Freeview to you and me. Peeved that they'll have to switch frequencies after spending the last couple of years getting people to switch to digital TV in the first place, the broadcasters want to start making use of 600MHz spectrum now to spread out the transition before 700MHz is sold off in 2018.

And so the BBC, Channel 4 and Arqiva propose to use 600MHz airwaves for new high-definition channels to encourage people to buy high-definition kit. If viewers switch to DVB-T2 MPEG-4 Freeview HD receivers sooner rather than later, we avoid a big retune, new aerials, and other such palaver further down the line.

Also on the 600MHz band are radio microphones and smart devices for the home, such as utility meters. These smart devices, known as White Space Devices, need the airwaves to report to your utility suppliers. Your water meter will tell your water supplier, for example, how much of the ol' splashy stuff you're using so you can be billed accurately instead of paying an arbitrary, flat rate.

Would new high-definition channels convince you to upgrade your Freeview kit? Is Ofcom doing the right thing planning for 5G? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.