Ofcom claims new technologies will enable it to circumvent spectrum limitations and extend the number of free-to-air high definition (HD) TV channels to five by next spring.
The UK regulator is inviting public service broadcasters to pitch for the new license, which it says is now technically feasible thanks to new MPEG 4 and DVB-T2 technologies. The successful applicant will be tasked with launching the new station by April 1 2012, as Ofcom aims to grow coverage from 50% of homes at present, to 98.5% by end-2012.
HD services typically consume four times the spectrum of regular definition programs, however Ofcom believes the two new technologies will help circumvent such constraints. The regulator has also reorganized existing TV services to help free up spectrum for HD programs.
A total of 1.8 million HD-ready freeview set-top-boxes have been sold since the technology was made available in May 2010.