IP Vision 'eyes 2010 for HD box launch'

Tuesday, October 13 2009, 13:53 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

IP Vision has revealed plans to launch a fully high definition version of its Fetch TV Freeview+ SmartBox in the second quarter of next year.

On December 2, HD broadcasts will commence on digital terrestrial television at the Winter Hill transmitter covering the Granada TV region.

Households in this region will be able to access initial and limited HD programming from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, with Five to launch its HD offering in mid-to-late 2010.

In preparation, the Digital TV Group is currently running test and conformance for new Freeview and Freeview+ HD receivers at its DTG Testing centre.

Speaking to Digital ***, IP Vision commercial director David Bloom said that a "couple of devices" will likely launch before Christmas, but there will only be limited HD broadcasts available.

However, most companies are aiming towards the World Cup tournament in South Africa, when the BBC is aiming to have around 45% UK coverage of Freeview HD.

"Even then, it doesn't mean that there will be broadcasters providing the service to match the coverage. The BBC will be there with some content, ITV have committed to provide on average a couple of hours a night, and Five at some point in 2010," said Bloom.

"An evolution of Freeview is always a big step. The thing about Freeview is that it evolves in the same way as other services but is always a couple of years behind those services.

"So it should really be 2011 when the service content, in terms of volume, really matches up. Its therefore a bit of a big ask for people to buy a new box for the purpose of five hours of HD a night."

IP Vision chief executive Eddie Abrams pointed out that most initial Freeview HD boxes will carry a significantly higher price tag than SD receivers.

Priced at 219, the current twin-tuner Fetch TV SmartBox has a 160GB hard drive, but a Freeview HD box would require "almost double that" due to the heavier bandwidth required. This means that the price point for the receiver would be "250 and upwards".

Despite the company's planned HD box, Abrams also explained that the current box upscales both broadcast and on-demand content to 1080i, and can also stream HD material, making it "as HD as you can get right now".