While the U.S. tries to speed up the DTV transition, the UK has delayed its transition until 2012 — two years longer than the original plan.
Digital television providers, which offer a wider array of programming beyond the five channels available with an antenna, have been stepping up their efforts to lure new customers in anticipation of the analog switch-off.
Some regions could see their analog signals of BBC, ITV, channels four and five, turned off as early as 2007, as the switchover is gradually rolled out. The government originally had hoped to finish the switchover by 2010.
The BBC, a publicly funded broadcaster, said last month it would not be against an earlier switchover to digital, but suggested that 2010 would be a stretch. It has been considering a stand-alone free digital satellite service or partnering with BSkyB on its recently announced free venture.
Televisions will also be marked with dates to indicate when their usefulness will run out as part of an effort to encourage the purchase of digital sets.
About half of UK households already have digital TV in some form. Freeview, a digital service without subscription fees, has reached 3.5 million households in less than two years. Digital satellite service from pay TV provider BSkyB has about seven million subscribers, and cable providers NTL and Telewest have another 2.4 million digital viewers.