ITV has announced that its HD service will be available to half the population of the UK by the time that the 2010 World Cup rolls around next year.

The company has reached a distribution deal with the Beeb that'll let it borrow some bandwidth to launch the channel on Freeview. The first areas to get ITV1 HD will be Manchester in December, followed by London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford.

A more detailed plan for the rollout will be launched in September, and a BBC Freeview HD service is also due to launch later this year. Both channels already offer HD via Freesat, and the BBC will have the World Athletics Championships in HD starting this weekend.

One worry is that the hardware won't be ready - BrandRepublic says "HD-ready set-top boxes are not expected to be widely available until next year". How many of those 50% of UK househoulds will be willing to splash out for a new set-top box, especially in a recession, remains to be seen.