The first free HD (high-definition) broadcasts aimed at consumers will be transmitted by the BBC. The 12-month trial of the format will begin on Thursday this week.

The BBC has also revealed that, according to its research, an overwhelming majority of people who know about HD expect the BBC to broadcast in HD, and to do so free to air, funded by the licence fee. They also expect HD broadcasting to be available on all platforms, including Freeview.

The BBC's HD stream starts broadcasting on 11 May with a promotional preview. The broadcasts will initially be available to viewers on satellite with the right HD equipment. Sky has announced it will start installing HD set-top boxes from 22 May.

The BBC has also confirmed its HD stream will also be carried in some cable areas in time for the World Cup, following a successful carriage agreement with NTL Telewest. Starting on 9 June, the BBC's World Cup coverage will be simulcast in HD, as will major Wimbledon matches.

From July onwards the stream will show BBC highlights in drama, documentaries, events and music for a few hours each day.

BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: "These are small but exciting first steps in the BBC's ambition to offer the option of HD to all in the future.

"It's clear that licence-fee-payers expect HD broadcasts from the BBC, the same way they have moved to colour television, widescreen, digital radio and online services with us in the past."

This story first appeared on Digit Online.