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British HD Migration nears Halfway Mark

As the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa heads into its final days, several million U.K. viewers of Freeview, the nation's government-supported terrestrial DTV service, have been watching the matches in HD. Whether HD's penchant for vivid detail made last week's shocking elimination of England at the hands of Germany even more painful is another matter.

The HD OTA coverage of the World Cup in the U.K, for the first time comes in the midst of the nation's gradual and systematic "switchover" to digital, which the country is deploying on a region-by-region basis. BT Vision, a telco, said its own infrastructure is serving as "underpinning" for the transition — which will continue until 2012. BT said by the end of the switchover, virtually all U.K. residents will be able to receive HD terrestrial signals.

The U.K.'s terrestrial system consists of six broadcast multiplexes which provide services to up to 120 main digital transmitters around the country. BT Vision says it has migrated about one-third of the transmitters so far (affecting about 8.5 million households). Those viewers served by converted transmitters can immediately begin to receive HD content terrestrially.

BT Vision said by this fall, more than half the nation's homes should be able to pull in HD signals, which it said is ahead of the original rollout schedule for the country's digital conversion.

There is, after all, plenty of motivation for the conversion finishing on time, or sooner: the 2012 summer Olympics in London.