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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May 2008, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Which HD service is right for you?
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

Remote control
Nearly 10 million homes have HD ready television sets

The BBC and ITV have launched a new digital television service complete with a couple of free-to-air high definition channels.

You pay an upfront fee of between 120 and 250 depending on the kind of equipment you want.

There are no monthly subscription charges.

200 or more gets you a HD Freesat box that lets you watch BBC HD and the upcoming ITV HD Channels.

Both display clear, crisp pictures with around five times the detail of standard television.

Just under 10 million homes now have a flatscreen TV capable of receiving HD broadcasts but most don't have the receiver or subscription needed to watch television in the new format.

Paul Murphy installs TV systems for a firm called Signal Surgery in Reading.

He told Newsbeat: "It's really all about the quality of the picture. It is like having a cinema in your home for the first time.

"But it is really for early adopters at the moment. It is still quite expensive and there is not a lot of choice in terms of channels. It is not going to hit the mainstream for another five years."

So how does Freesat HD compare with the other high def options out there?

FREESAT

The new kid on the block as far as HD goes. The service comes with just one HD channel at launch, BBC HD.

It will show sporting events like Euro 2008, Wimbledon and the Olympics in high definition.

Freesat logo
Sporting events like Wimbledon and Euro 2008 will be shown in HD

Music events like Radio 1's Big Weekend will also feature.

ITV's high definition channel is expected to launch "shortly".

It is likely to show Champion's League football as well as films and shows like the X-Factor.

Other HD channels are expected to launch before the end of the year.

SKY HD

Sky offers a total of 14 HD channels including two sport channels, three movie channels and factual stations like Discovery HD and Sky Arts HD.

A special Sky HD Box is needed costing between 229 and 279 depending on your Sky package.

The box also doubles as a Sky+ digital video recorder which can copy both standard and HD shows directly from satellite.

Sky's HD service then costs another 10 a month on top of your existing Sky bill.

It is possible to access free-to-air HD services like BBC HD without a monthly Sky subscription.

You need Sky's own "free" service, confusingly also called Freesat, costing 150 including installation plus a standalone Sky HD box costing another 399.

VIRGIN MEDIA

Cable company Virgin offers a digital video recorder called V+ "for free" but charges a 150 installation fee.

It comes with some HD features as standard.

The only live high definition channel on the platform is BBC HD.

But V+ also comes with 2,000 hours of video-on-demand programming, some of it in high definition.

Virgin charges a standard monthly fee of 5, although V+ is free with its XL package of 145 channels.

FREEVIEW

Freeview is the standard digital terrestrial TV system that comes through a normal aerial.

A limited number of high definition channels will start to appear on the platform next year.

Up to four free HD channels will be broadcast, including the BBC's own HD service.

ITV, Channel 4, Five and Welsh network S4C are expected to bid for the other three slots.

Viewers will need a new HD Freeview box and will have to wait until the analogue TV signal is switched off in their area before they can see the HD channels.

The north-west of England will be the first region to receive the broadcasts in 2009.

The last to switch will be London, the north-east of England and Northern Ireland in 2012.



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