Freesat, a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, will add the popular BBC iPlayer, the online TV catch-up service, to the free-to-air satellite platform later this month prior to a full launch next year.

The BBC said a new version is being developed for the Freesat platform. The BBC confirmed all Freesat HD boxes will be able to receive iPlayer.

 The BBC's move is part of a trial of the service, which is expected to be made available to the whole of the UK in 2010.

The Freesat service has no monthly subscription fee and is an alternative to the terrestrial Freeview service for those who suffer from poor reception.

Those already with a satellite dish can save money by simply buying a set-top box, available through a number of high street retailers.

As well as being available online, the BBC iPlayer can also be accessed by Virgin Media viewers and gamers with Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3 consoles.

"I expect to start a Beta deployment by the end of November using capable Freesat devices," said Rahul Chakkara, Controller of TV Platforms at the BBC, in a blog.

Chakkara also said a quarter of iPlayer viewers watch the service via Virgin Media.

Freesat gives viewers access to more than 140 television and radio channels, and offers a selection of high-definition programming from both the BBC and ITV.

Official Freesat receivers are automatically updated with any additional channels and services become available.