The main transmitter at Crystal Palace is Arqiva’s most important broadcasting site, and there are 52 relay stations spread throughout the region to fill in gaps created by terrain or local obstructions. Together they serve almost five million households in Greater London and parts of the south-east, or 18% of the UK population.
The iconic Crystal Palace transmitting station opened on the 28 March 1956, replacing the world’s first regular ‘high definition’ TV service from Alexandra Palace which started broadcasting in 1936 (and is now a local relay station). The initial transmissions were from a temporary 235-foot high mast built over an adjacent reservoir until the existing 720 ft (219 metres) tower was completed in 1957.
Crystal Palace has played a significant role in the history of television. It was crucial to early experiments with UHF colour transmissions. In 1969 Crystal Palace was the first to be completely re-engineered with new UHF 625-line colour systems for BBC and ITV. Channel 4 was added in 1982. Other firsts include the introduction of digital terrestrial television in 1998 and HDTV from December 2009.
At DSO in April 2012, Freeview transmission power at Crystal Palace increases from 20 kW to around 200 kW (effective radiated power per multiplex). To prepare for that, Arqiva initiated major structural works in 2008 to strengthen the tower for the new DSO antennas. The work included painting of the whole tower, a considerable undertaking in itself. In 2010 the existing analogue antenna was replaced by new high-power digital antennas, and major modifications were made to existing buildings to accommodate the new equipment. New power supplies and back-up generators have been installed and of course the new high-power transmitters themselves, ready for the new DSO services.
Arqiva is very proud to have implemented digital TV switchover for the UK, on time and within budget and to celebrate this fact we're doing something very special at the Crystal Palace Tower on the 18 April 2012 - find out more about the Switch Over Night celebrations.