Residents of Whitehaven, Cumbria in the U.K. are preparing for the switch to digital TV on October 17th. About 25,000 households were sent letters explaining the details of the switch from analog to digital. The Whitehaven area will be the first town in the U.K. to go all digital. The transition will start on October 17 when BBC Two will cease broadcasting in analog and begin transmitting in digital along with BBC One, BBC Three, BBC News 24, and CBBC. By November 14 the remaining analog channels will be permanently switched off. Residents will go from receiving about 4 channels free over-the-air to 18 free channels over-the-air.
Residents that do not have digital sets can purchase a converter box for about $80, and people that cannot afford one will be given an equivalent credit to purchase one.
This conversion is the first stage of a five year rollout plan managed by Digital UK. At the end of 2012, every TV set in the country must be connected to Freeway (the over-the-air digital TV service), cable, satellite, or IPTV to continue working. Similar schemes are scheduled to take place in the U.S. and other countries.
What is interesting to note is that Ofcom has made no provisions for High Definition TV. There will be no HD channels broadcast over Freeway. So many of the people that go out and purchase new HD TVs will not get to take advantage of high definition programming unless the subscribe to satellite or cable TV. Ofcom will sell the recovered spectrum to companies that my offer paid HD programming.