On cue, Saorview, the much anticipated Irish Free-To-Air Digital Television service, started trials on Friday. In the run up to the full launch of the Digital Switchover in Spring 2011, what exactly is the beef? and what does it mean for your pocket?
Analogue television in Ireland is switching to Digital. The move is being made now so that Ireland fulfils its EU obligations to develop a digital free to air transmission system before analogue switch off in 2012.
Analogue is being replaced by digital terrestrial television which was launched last Friday, as a trial service. Moving to digital frees up spectrum, which allows for other services like wireless broadband for example to be provided over this same 'space'. This is will work to benefit rural Ireland where wired broadband may never exist. Free-to-air DTT in Ireland has been named SAORVIEW.
RTÉ NL has been given the primary responsibility to provide the new free-to-air digital transmission system for the free to air channels
SAORVIEW is a free-to-air service. This means there are no monthly subscription fees or contracts. To receive SAORVIEW you will need an aerial and a set top box/ integrated digital television.
The majority of homes will receive SAORVIEW through an existing aerial, rabbits ears (Or coat hanger!). In most cases, you will not need a new aerial.
You will need a set top box or a Digital TV with integrated receiver however. RTÉ has set up a receiver approval process to reassure consumers that receivers are SAORVIEW compliant. Receivers that have been approved will carry the SAORVIEW logo.
At present there are looks to only one type of receiver approved from Walker Technology, retailing at approx €100, although more are in the process of being approved and prices should come down as a wider range becomes available
Saorview's official website that the majority of UK "Freeview" boxes and iDTVs will not decode the SAORVIEW service, but it's worth noting that it's not reffering to all boxes and many of the newer HD boxes may be compatible. There's some debate still which may work and it might make sense to wait until it's crystal clear.
RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, TG4 and RTÉ News Now is being broadcast as trial digital services, with RTÉ transmitting some HD programming and reverting to standard definition where that program is not available in HD. Up until today TV3 was still not available, however it's promised to within the line up.
Radio services will also be available on the trial service: RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, RTÉ 2FM, RTÉ Lyric, RTÉ RnaG, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Choice, RTÉ Gold, and RTÉ Chill / Junior.
More channels, services and enhancements will follow as part of the full launch of the SAORVIEW service in spring 2011.
RTÉ has proposed a number of new services for SAORVIEW including: High Definition (HD) sport, drama and film; news services; interactive services and dedicated children’s services.
Given Saorview is a trial, it's too early to say. It's a welcome start to the switchover. While the channel range probably doesn't yet satisfy many families' telly appetites, for many cash conscious out there, it's timing is uncanny