High definition television television has finally arrived in New Zealand - if you live in the main cities, and have got hold of one of the new Freeview DTT set-top boxes.
The new Freeview|HD service went live with a "soft launch" yesterday, although the "official" launch by PM Hillin Cluck isn't for another two weeks. News and information channel TVNZ 7 and Maori Television's Te Reo are the country's newest digital channels.
Viewers don't need a satellite dish for the new Freeview|HD service, but do need a high-definition set-top box, a UHF aerial, and good UHF tv reception. The DTT service will be available to around 75% of the population (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier/Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin).
(Official coverage map from Freeview NZ)
As well as eventually offering more channels that the original satellite version of Freeview (which is restricted by bandwidth limitations to around 20 channels), Freeview|HD offers viewers with the right TV sets true high-definition television, with "crystal clear" DVD-quality widescreen pictures and sound.
Rival digital operator Sky says it has no current plans to add its free to air channel Prime or any of its subscription tv channels to the Freeview DTT service.
Initially only TV3 will be broadcasting in high-definition, with a selection of its programming including Boston Legal, CSI, Prison Break, Bones, Rove and Home & Away. TVNZ is expected to broadcast the Beijing Olympics in HD. Broadcasters are also able to up-convert standard definition material to a higher resolution.
Official Zinwell Freeview HD set-top boxes are now on sale through the likes of Dick Smith Electronics for just under $400 (a launch special), with private importers hoping to sell compatible boxes for between $250-$300 within the next few months.
* Stuff: High-definition comes to NZ's cities
* NZ Herald: Freeview service arrives without Prime
* NZ Herald blog: Hands on with Freeview HD
* NZ Herald blog: Freeview goes HD - but where's the hardware?
Posted at 7:02 pm