Could Australia have HD free to air TV from 2016?

Free to Air HD
Wouldn't it be nice if all TV was in HD?

With football finals season upon us, the annual calls for the free-to-air TV broadcasters to show key matches in high definition is reaching fever pitch.

The good news is that it may potentially happen within the next few years, with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull claiming the forced closure of community television could free up some bandwidth for HD.

Of course, the extra bandwidth isn't guaranteed to make HD broadcasts a reality, with Turnbull quoted in The Age as stating that "In the longer term the sixth channel may be allocated for uses other than broadcasting, such as telecommunications and mobile internet."

MPEG 4 the masses

The other technological advance that could make HD broadcasts a reality is the switch from the MPEG-2 standard for broadcasting to MPEG4.

The MPEG4 standard – which was trialled during the country's brief infatuation with 3D TV – offers a much more efficient use of the available bandwidth, potentially allowing broadcasters to both switch to HD for main channels as well offering more channels.

The government is keen to encourage a transition to the MPEG4 standard for broadcasting, although any such transition would see some older televisions or set-top boxes lose the ability to receive a signal.

Most devices released in the past 10 years, including FreeView badged devices and DVRs like Fetch TV will likely be fine though.

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Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.