In what could prove a massive longer-term boost for consumer uptake of High Definition TV in the UK, the BBC on Tuesday proclaimed its commitment to the new technology.

Fans of HDTV describe the viewing experience as akin to moving from mono TV to full colour, its superior picture definition based on up to 1,080 lines compared with the standard 625 lines.

As from the middle of 2006, the BBC will simulcast major drama series, documentaries and sporting events in standard and HD formats. However, this will be via satellite and cable channels only.

Antenna-receiving households - even those who have already bought HD-enabled receivers - will be unable to receive HDTV until 2012, when extra channel capacity will become available following the switch-off of the analogue TV signal. Likewise the nation's 5m-plus digital Freeview housdeholds.

However, there is one exception. As of mid-2006 a fortunate few Freeview homes will be able to experience the new technology via a pilot scheme in the London area. There is no shortage of HDTV content as the BBC already produces programmes in that format for sale to the US and other overseas markets.

NewsCorp-controlled satellite monopoly BSkyB will be the first TV company to launch a range of high definition channels in the first half of next year. According to ceo James Murdoch, the technology "blows your mind".

Hard on Sky's heels will be the about-to-be merged cable operators NTL and Telewest, which as a single entity will initially offer HDTV programming delivered on demand rather than broadcast live.

According to trade association The Digital Television Group, a third of the 5.5m TV sets sold in the UK over the past year are capable of receiving HDTV programmes.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff