Canadian bid for FreeHD service

Veteran Canadian satellite TV exec David Lewis is looking to launch FreeHD Canada, a high definition satellite TV service to remove obstacles to Canada's digital TV transition.

Lewis has applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to offer from early 2011 around 100 local TV channels in HD for free and a further 150 Canadian and foreign cable and pay channels, also in HD.

FreeHD aims to ease distribution bottlenecks in the Canadian market as existing cable and satellite TV services remain hard-pressed to pay for increased bandwith required as Canada prepares for its August 2011 transition from analog to digital TV.

If successful, the digital satellite TV service intends to launch from scratch, and use new technologies, including MPEG 4 compression, to provide much-needed HD bandwith for the Canadian market.

Canada has lagged behind the U.S. market by a year or two in its digital transition, but an urgent need for costly upgrades by existing broadcasters, cable operators and other content carriers has delayed Canada's mandated end to analog over-the-air broadcasts.