It’s worse than we thought Jim; the arrival of 4G LTE could mean that Freeview would be unwatchable in one of ten UK homes.
A report commissioned by The Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV) group warns that 2.3 million UK homes could be without Freeview when the next-gen mobile network rolls out.
At the moment, Freeview broadcasts occupies the 600MHz, 700MHz and 800MHz bands of the radio spectrum. 4G LTE in the UK will use the 800MHz band to deliver super-fast broadband speeds to mobile phones and in some cases, provide 100Mbps broadband services to fixed locations.
However the two can’t co-exist on the same band; Ofcom has already warned of this problem, estimating last year that 760,000 homes would be affected. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport later claimed the figure was closer to 900,000; VLV is saying that it’s running into the millions.
Thankfully there’s a solution in the form of a filter that you can fit to the side of your Freeview signal booster, which will filter out 4G signals. The UK Government has also set aside £180 million to cover costs of these filters.
Could be a problem if you want Freeview and you want a 4G phone in the future though...
If you can’t get access to this or you don’t have one, then as a solution Ofcom has proposed the formation of MitCo, a company which would install a Freesat dish on your house if you’re in an area that would be affected by the 4G/Freeview/800MHz fallout.
MitCo would will be jointly run by the networks successful in the spectrum auction and would exist for a year after the rollout of 4G LTE.
As Freesat wouldn’t be affected (as it’s satellite TV) by this it’s a good idea, except that not every landlord will let you bolt a dish on the side of your house or flat.
The VLV is lobbying to sidestep what could become a big mess altogether and ringfence the 800MHz spectrum for Freeview.
Sophie Chalk of VLV said: "These proposals to sell spectrum to mobile phone operators in order to raise millions for the Treasury could remove the option of free-to-air television from millions of viewers. This runs completely against the UK's system of public service broadcasting whereby there is universal access for all citizens to programmes made by the main terrestrial channels.”
Growth in the use of 4G mobile broadband has also prompted fears from Ofcom that Freeview could be reduced to a rump state of 20 channels in 2018 unless a solution is reached.
Image credit: Flickr user Scott89