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Freeview vs 4G: government not doing enough to protect viewers

Mobile phone operators should meet the full cost of interference to Freeview homes when 4G wireless services launch, says Freeview.

The free TV service has said the government is not doing enough to protect people from the potential interference to their viewing which the new services will cause.

The government will slice £180m from the auction of frequencies to adjust both the Freeview transmitter network and affected viewers’ equipment.

Digital terrestrial TV interference by Stallio/Flickr

Ilse Howling, managing director of Freeview, told a parliamentary briefing: “It is vital that any strategy listens to what consumers want and need.

“We strongly believe that the Freeview homes should not be subject to further inconvenience and additional cost to make way for mobile broadband.

“The Government has committed to recouping the cost of protecting viewers from interference, using proceeds from the 4G mobile auction. However, this will still leave viewers to bear a substantial proportion of the cost.

“The mobile phone operators will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this new service, and we believe that they should pay to mitigate the television interference according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle.”

The 4G services will use some frequencies currently occupied by Freeview, but they have also been poorly designed, so there is not enough of a gap to prevent overflowing onto neighbouring Freeview signals.

Freeview (DTT) vs 4G

Millions of homes will have to retune their Freeview TVs and boxes, while tens of thousands will find their signals swamped by a nearby 4G mast.

The government has said the 4G mitigation company, dubbed MitCo, will only help Freeview viewers with the main TV in their home, either by supplying signal filters or paying for a Freesat receiver and satellite dish.

It will leave other TVs suffering interference and there will be no help for anyone using a portable aerial instead of a rooftop aerial, even if they had a good signal before 4G. 

The only ray of light for Freeview homes is that the mobile phone companies are busy delaying the launch of 4G themselves, thanks to ongoing squabbles with Ofcom over how it will auction the frequencies they want to use.

Images: Stallio/Flickr and Ofcom