So you won a 4G licence. The Freeview interference squad wants a word
Next-gen mobe broadband threat to 2 MILLION tellies
The team to turn to when high-speed mobile broadband knocks out your Freeview signal has kicked off negotiations with this week's 4G auction winners. It's hoped that Brits will get four weeks of notice before up to two million TV screens go dark.
The recently established body managing interference from new 4G services is called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL), and it now has a shiny website with a new logo. It also prefers to be known as AT800. Under that name it undertakes to contact every home at risk of losing Freeview reception at lest four weeks ahead of time, and provide mitigation to those who want it.
The new 4G licences, auctioned off earlier this week, occupy the space where analogue TV used to be, adjacent to Freeview's digital transmissions. In most cases that won't be an issue: the leakage from 4G into Freeview will be minimal, but where the viewer is receiving a weak Freeview signal, and using a cheap signal booster, then the effect of boosting both will knock out Freeview reception.
AT800 is funded by an £180m charge tacked onto* the 4G auction's £2.3bn revenue, most of which will go on filters fitted in homes to remove the 4G signal before boosting. But the filter has to go between the ariel and the booster, and where that's impossible (such as both being within the roof of a block of flats) then AT800 has the authority to spend up to £10,000 per household ensuring they get some sort of free-to-view TV service.
No one knows quite how big the problem will be nor where it's going to happen. Right now we don't even know which of the auction winners will be most likely to interfere - the amount of spectrum has been decided, but exactly which bands will be used is still being negotiated, and the interference issue will play a significant part in those negotiations.
The operators could probably make the problem disappear by fitting better filters on their base stations, and they'll get any left over cash as a motivator for installing that kit, once the shiny logo, website, letters, home filters and so forth have been paid for.
The big issue is that no one knows how much this is going to matter. Ofcom's original estimate was 760,000 houses impacted, and 30,000 losing Freeview entirely, but set-top boxes have improved since then and AT800 is keeping busy testing lots of gear and talking to the operators about roll-out plans.
We do know that Channel 60 will be the Freeview frequency most affected, and UK Free.tv has a useful map showing which Freeeview transmitters are using that slot, but until the networks start deploying we won't know how bad the problem is, or if £180m will be enough to fix it. ®
* AT800 has been in touch to point out that, in a late change to the 4G licence process, its funding was tacked onto the auction prices, so the £180m spending pot will be collected from winning mobile telcos in addition to the £2.3bn in 4G licences.
I thought the point of the whole digital switchover was to stop this sort of thing - "now we can expand without knocking out existing TV channels, because the TV channels are safely locked up in their own spectrum that isn't being underused and is just for TV". Another OfCom-plete failure.
And, to be honest, if my Freeview signal was affected, I'd be more likely to just switch it off and/or buy something more regulated from someone else. You don't get Sky or cable knocking out your transmission because the frequencies overlap with something else. Freeview will be the ones to suffer here, as well as customers.
I just love it. "Upgrade to digital", you say to all the old folks who don't know what SCART is - "You'll get a better picture more channels, and no interference - and we're turning off the old system anyway, so you have no choice". So they upgrade their aerials, fit signal boosters, change their TV or buy loads of adaptors, get comfortable and then next year it's "Oh, by the way, you have to do that all over again now because you'll get interference now from mobile phone masts and rather than just a little snow, you'll get an unwatchable corrupt MPEG stream ."
If we were talking 7000 people - okay. If we're talk 70,000 people, you have a problem. But they're honestly talking about 700,000 people - that's a good portion of the TV viewing audience across Britain. I think, if I was elderly, it would be that point at which I told them to stick it up their bum, sold my TV and stopped paying the licensing fee.
Gave up on freeview
Waltham Tx has been a pile of shit for months - in fact since they started work to shift muxs out of the 4G bands.
Its so bad that its impossible to receive any muxs above C49 here (NW Leicester) - antenna installers doing a roaring trade turning the antenna around to face Sutton Coldfield Tx. That however loses all the programmes local to the East Mids (no great loss) and substitutes them with West Mids programming (no great gain).
So I got a Freesat box.
DVB-T rollout in the UK has been (IMHO) a trail of incompetence and dithering. Typical of the UK these days. 15 YEARS to roll it out; pretty much all the early boxes obsolete due to later QAM changes; a DVB-T HD format which nobody else on the planet uses (or intends to use) and now the 4G nonsense.
And someone will pay to replace my multi-outlet TV amplifier in the loft that feeds all of the room in the house?
We need this because in West Somerset (in England), the closest transmitter is Wenvoe (in Wales), and I prefer not to get programs in a language I don't understand (I suppose that I could learn Welsh...), but that would still mean that I got S4C not Channel 4, and also that I would get Welsh news, weather etc. I had enough of that when I was working in Swansea.
So. I point my aerials at Mendip, and the signal strength even since switchover is marginal without an amplifier.
I do get fed up when people assume that you've only one TV in the house, and suggest a single solution like "buy Freesat or Sky" will only do that one TV. If I were to provide separate satellite boxes on every TV in the house (my kids are all grown up but living at home [unfortunately], and have their own TVs in their bedrooms), it would cost a fortune, and I would need at least an 8 port LNB, plus lots of point-to-point wiring.
I need Freeview to work, and as all of our channels are at the top end (we're still getting the multiplex with BBC1 on channel 61 at the moment, so will have to retune again at some point I guess), it is very likely we will be affected. And there is no cable installation.