Ofcom has announced that the UK will get four new high definition Freeview channels by the time the digital switchover has been completed in 2012.

The first three channels could go live as soon as 2009 when the spectrum required, currently licensed to the BBC, is freed up.

The Beeb has been guaranteed one of the slots, and the other three will be up for grabs for commercial broadcasters, such as ITV, Channel 4 and five, who will have to compete for the channels via a bidding process that will be run by Ofcom.

The bid process will take into account contribution to public service broadcasting and efficient use of the spectrum.

Sky is currently the biggest provider of HD programming in the UK, offering 16 HD channels, while the BBC has trialed high-def broadcasting. Consumers will need to upgrade their Freeview equipment in order to receive the new HD channels.