Analogue television transmission has been switched off in the UK after 75 years on-air. The final phase of the digital switchover (DSO) happened in Northern Ireland at midnight on 24 October, giving viewers in the Province access to the Freeview digital terrestrial TV (DTT) for the first time.
The change to new high-power digital transmitters and the decommissioning of analogue transmission equipment has been going on area by area and region by region in the UK since 2008. The work was undertaken by broadcast-transmission provider Arqiva and means that now 98.5% of the UK population can pick up digital TV.
Besides more channels, the interactivity built into the DVB-T system means that additional services can be broadcast using the Red Button. Broadcasters have used this to provide additional or alternative coverage of sport, in addition to a choice of commentary on the main channels. One multiplex in each area is based on second-generation DVB-T2 technology to carry HD versions of BBC1, Channel 4, and ITV1, plus the BBC HD channel.
The switchover in Northern Ireland was presided over by Arqiva Chief Executive John Cresswell and Northern Irish Olympic star Dame Mary Peters, who won gold in the pentathlon at the Munich 1972 Games. The end of analogue broadcasting in the Province was marked by the first-ever simultaneous broadcast by BBC Northern Ireland and Ulster TV, presented by Eamonn Holmes.
Cresswell commented that the creation of a full DTT network in the UK “should safeguard Britain’s broadcasting future, an exciting TV-viewing platform for consumers, with free-to-air at its core”.