Ofcom has awarded Arqiva a licence that could add as many as 10 HD channels to the Freeview line up.
The regulator granted a single licence to set up a temporary Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) multiplexes using DVB-T2/MPEG4 technology. The licence will run until 2026. The licence could bring extra HD channels as DVB-T2 technology uses bandwidth in a single multiplex more edfficiently.
Terms of the licence means that the licence will run for a minimum duration to 31 December 2018. The licence will cover the 600 MHz spectrum band (550 to 606 MHz).
Ofcom said that during its consultation period, most responses to the plans were generally supportive for the award, but some feedback meant that the regulator awarded only one licence with conditions of service.
It said that one major challenge was that the proposed interim DTT licence might limit Ofcom’s ability to start any clearance of the 700MHz band for mobile broadband. The regulator said that decided that the best way to address the problem was to add a clause in the licence that will allow it to vary or substitute the frequencies awarded in the 600 MHz band, as necessary, ahead of the end of 2018 in order to facilitate any transition of DTT from the 700 MHz spectrum.
Arqiva was the only organisation to submit a bid for the award, Ofcom said. The regulator also said that Arqiva’s bid was “compliant with the proposed licence terms”.
Freeview managing director Ilse Howling welcomed the news, saying:
“We are delighted by the announcements today from Ofcom, The BBC and Arqiva which confirms that viewers will be able to receive up to ten additional high definition channels on Freeview HD by early 2014.
“Importantly, this is good news for millions of Freeview HD viewers whose appetite for more HD channels has been growing since Freeview HD launched in 2010. The new services will also encourage further take-up of HD equipment.”