High definition TV represents the next generation of television technology. It offers a big improvement in picture quality (about four times the number of pixels on the screen), and the ability to include cinema-style surround sound.
The benefits are particularly noticeable for the new generation of large flat-screen TVs. It is the latest in a long line of major improvements to TV services, which have moved from black-and-white analogue to widescreen colour digital over the last 50 years.
At the moment there is very limited availability of HD TV services. Services are planned for launch by cable and satellite operators in 2006, most of which will require an additional subscription fee. To watch HD programmes you will also need an 'HD Ready' TV set. These are being sold by many retailers in the UK at the moment, and will normally be identified by an 'HD Ready' sticker like the one below.
The next generation of games consoles, such as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 (due to launch at the end of 2006), are now producing games in HD. In addition, two DVD formats are being developed that will allow DVDs to be produced in HD, which you will need to buy new equipment to be able to play.
Some of Channel 4's most well-known programmes are already shot in high definition, and may be available to be viewed in HD format through cable, satellite or broadband services in the future.
These plans are in development – watch this space. We are also currently taking part in a technical trial with the BBC, ITV and five to test the possibility of delivering HD programmes through your normal TV aerial, alongside Freeview. This is a small trial, involving just a few hundred homes. If you live in London, already own an 'HD Ready' TV set, and would like to be part of this trial, please click here.
Get more information about HD Ready here.