Beyond the digital TV switchover

Even if Ofcom forges a long-term plan, the biggest problem is how to pay for it. Phil Laven of the European Broadcasting Union estimates that the current digital switch will have cost consumers €15billion in new equipment and TV licence fees, and we won't want to pay again. Broadcasters, multiplex operators and winners of the spectrum auctions are the most likely targets.

"We all need to think about new methods of funding switchover. Do not expect the public to pay for all this in future. Free-to-air digital terrestrial is important. Market- based mechanisms for spectrum optimisation do not give optimum results," says Laven.

Look and sound: In the short term we can look forward to 1080p hi-def broadcasts. Phil Laven adds: '1080p is very attractive, that would be a really good standard to start with for production, but today none of the set-top boxes out there will handle 1080p. I hope the next generation of set-top boxes will solve that problem.'

TV for mobile viewing is a completely different question. Do you shoot and crop it for small screens, or will people use 'eye-phones' that give them a full screen experience anywhere? It's not a sci-fi question; specs with standard-def wearable displays are already on sale.

Beyond Full HD comes Ultra High Definition – 4,000 lines and 22.2 three-dimensional surround sound. Designed by NHK in Japan, it goes to the physical and mental limits of human vision so you wouldn't need anything better. But it is a complete generation of broadcast, production and display technology away, even if NHK is hoping to start trial broadcasts in Japan as soon as 2012.

Top five tips for surviving digital transition

1: Buy the biggest and best screen you can
A good TV is always worth the cash, so go for the biggest screen with the best picture you can afford.

2. You can always add tuners
Set-top boxes are always cheaper than integrated tuners, so save pain and only upgrade the tuner when the technology improves.

3. Get a dish
Satellite TV moves faster and equipment is generally cheaper than terrestrial because standards are pretty much global.

4. Support the BBC
No one fights harder for free TV, and the research it does into new technology is worth the Licence Fee on its own.

5. Surf behind the curve
In other words, buy the second generation, not the first. You'll be ahead of the pack and the big bugs will be fixed.