The corporation will begin limited technical trials to simulcast highlights of its BBC1 peak time schedule on cable and satellite from mid-2006, with the aim of testing delivery and reception of HD broadcasts on the major platforms.
The BBC has also appointed Seetha Kumar as Head of HD TV for the BBC to run and manage the year-long experiment.
The trial starts in mid 2006, just in time for the World Cup in Germany which starts in June. HD football is expected to be a major selling point for broadcasters such as Sky - which is to offer HD broadcasts from April next year, offering viewers higher quality, sharper pictures and better sound.
Director of television Jana Bennett said: "High definition may take time to grow in Britain, but as with the other technologies we helped to build, the BBC wants to prepare now to be able to deliver the benefits of HD to all its licence payers in the long term."
The corporation is also looking to run a DTT trial of HD using surplus DTT capacity and is considering collaborating with other broadcasters - such as ITV, which shares World Cup rights with the corporation.
For the DTT trial, the BBC will apply to Ofcom for temporary use of an unused frequency currently not allocated to broadcasters and unsuitable for conventional broadcast use. A BBC statement said: "It is hoped it will be possible to provide a limited number of HD set top box receivers to triallists. However, it is unlikely that HD receivers will be available commercially until a long-term future is secured for high definition terrestrial broadcasting."
The BBC hopes that the government will allocate spectrum freed up by analogue switch off to HD broadcasting and is currently in talks with government and Ofcom.