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UK.gov vows to purify TV with £180m from mobile networks

£10,000 per home to protect Freeview from 4G signals

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Bored of waiting for Ofcom's consultation on the possible interference between 4G telephony and Freeview TV, the Ministry of Fun has said it will spend £180m of operators' money mitigating the problem.

Ofcom has been looking into the matter since July, and is expected to publish a report soon. But it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that LTE services running at the bottom of the 800MHz band can interfere with Freeview channel 60 and above, and that mitigation will be necessary - though in many cases that will just mean pointing one's TV aerial in the right direction.

Ofcom examined the topic in some detail last year, and concluded that 760,000 houses could see their Freeview service degraded, and that 30,000 houses could find it impossible to get Freeview once 4G is widely deployed. That examination led to a consultation, the results of which are expected soon, though the Ministry's early announcement of a £180m fund - with telcos footing the bill - would seem to indicate those initial projections were roughly accurate.

Mobile phone signals, LTE or otherwise, are much lower power than TV transmissions, and as long as one's aerial is pointed the right way then interference should be minimal to the point of irrelevance.

The only people who are really going to have problems are those receiving television on channel 60 or above (see this helpful map from UK Free TV) who are also using powered signal boosters. These take in the signal and amplify it, but they also amplify the interfering signal and can make the two indistinguishable, so it's those users Ofcom (and the Ministry) will be targeting.

In most cases a £10 filter can be used, and most of the money will be spent nipping round to old people's houses to plug them in. In a few cases that might not work, so Freesat (satellite delivery) or similar kit will be required, and there's up to £10,000 per house to make that happen.

Other countries, such as Germany, are already deploying next-gen mobile broadband LTE and have pushed the responsibility fully onto the network operators, but (as Ofcom pointed out during its consultation on the matter) back in 2009 only seven per cent of German households were reliant on terrestrial digital TV, compared to 41 per cent in the UK. ®

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