Freesat, the brand new digital satellite service that is bound to make Sky and other media companies quake in their boots, has been launched today; the collaboration between BBC and iTV means that for the first time, High definition TV programming will be available at no extra cost.
More than 80 channels will be available with the only prerequisites being a one-off payment of around £200 for a satellite dish, a digital box and installation and this figure will reach 200 by the end of the year.
Unlike Freeview, it will be available to more than 98 percent of the UK population at launch and will be available for sale at major high street stores like Comet or Currys.
Sky users also will be able to use the service although they will probably need to add another set top box; it is not known whether Sky has any plans to shelve its own Freeskysat service which offers a similar service but without the HD features.
Sky already has 18 HD channels and has plans to add a dozen more by the end of the year.
Only BBC's HD trial channel will be available at launch although it will soon be joined by ITV's HD service and it is understoodd that HD will prove to be a major hit for the forthcoming summer Olympics.
The free to air satellite television and radio service is the first of two projects that the BBC and ITV plan to achieve this year.
Later in autumn, Kangaroo, a commercial version of the iPlayer is scheduled to be launched with an expanded offering including free to view, ad supported and paid shows, movies and documentaries.