Published: 11.28 Europe/London, May 27, 2011

The Irish digital terrestrial platform Saorview officially went live yesterday (May 26).

From launch the platform will be available to 97% of Irish households and will carry a bouquet of eight channels. : RTÉ One, RTÉ Two HD, TV3, TG4, RTÉ News Now, 3e, RTÉjr and RTÉ One + 1. There is also an MHEG-5 version of the teletext service Aertel and all of RTE’s radio services.

“Saorview will secure the future of Irish free-to-air television in the digital age”, said communications minister Pat Rabbitte. “My aim is to ensure that there is a free television service available to all Irish viewers after analogue switch off in 2012. When combined with other pay or free platforms Saorview will offer a wide choice of TV channels to viewers, and the choice of channels available on Saorview will grow further in 2012”.

Around 600,000 of Irelands 1.6 million television households currently receive a terrestrial signal with 335,000 of them relying on terrestrial alone.

RTE is investing €70 million in the infrastructure needed to allow Ireland make the transition from analogue to digital television. In addition to terrestrial transmissions Saorsat will provide gapfill coverage to the 2% of the population in DTT blackspots.

Transmissions in DVB-T/MPEG-4 will comply to the Nordig 2.2 standard, a legacy from the failed attempts to launch a commercial bouquet, when Sweden’s Teracom initially won the contract before failing to agree terms with RTE.

A precise date in 2012 for analogue switch off will be announced later this summer.