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Digital TV available on analogue in March

Technology that will allow consumers to access digital services through traditional analogue TV sets is set to arrive in March,...

Technology that will allow consumers to access digital services through traditional analogue TV sets is set to arrive in March, boosting the potential of interactive TV (iTV) as a sales channel.

iTV - where consumers access the Internet via their television sets - is set to be a massive growth area over the next few years. Analyst firm G2 estimates that iTV will account for 22% of all online sales in the UK (worth about £7bn) by 2005.

To date, the success of iTV as a sales channel has been dependent on the number of people who have access to digital televisions. It is currently only available to owners of digitally enabled sets and subscribers to pay TV services.

However, Pace Micro, Europe's largest set-top box provider, said it will launch an adapter that will allow viewers to watch free-to-air digital channels on their existing sets on 30 March.

The Pace Adapter, which will be sold at high street retail outlets for £99.99, will also provide viewers with the option to upgrade to pay-TV services at a later date.

Malcolm Miller, chief executive at Pace Micro, believes the product will bring the UK closer to the Government's goal of affordable digital TV for all by 2010, but he said technology is just one part of the solution.

"To achieve a full switch, we need to take a fresh look at digital content to ensure it is both useful and compelling," said Miller. "The onus is now on the Government to continue to support industry initiatives by providing clear, unbiased information to the public about digital TV."

n In another possible boost for iTV, electronics giant Philips has developed a chip which it claims can decode digital signals for viewing on analogue TV sets. The chip can work with the two current digital TV standards, SDTV and HDTV. Because the technology is relatively cheap, the price of set-top boxes could fall.

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