Ofcom is asking for industry comment on how Freeview could be moved to make way for 5G mobile broadband in the future.
It’s expected that in the future Freeview users will need to retune again (or buy new equipment) as 5G mobile services are launched on the low frequency 700MHz band.
Right now, Freeview users up and down the UK are currently having to retune their TVs to make way for the arrival of 4G on the 800MHz band this summer.
Fears of interference, termed the 4G Freeview Fail by us, prompted speculation that millions of viewers would lose their Freeview reception. It looks like this won’t be the case but it’s got the hackles up of many Freeview customers nonetheless. The UK has also been late to introduce 4G services compared to other markets and Ofcom doesn’t want us to be left behind again.
Last November, Ofcom announced plans for delivery of 5G, with a view to launching an auction in 2018. Now it’s asking for input from the likes of mobile network providers and broadcasters to draw up an action plan on delivering this:
“Ofcom is now seeking views from stakeholders on the relevant factors to consider when assessing the costs and benefits associated with a potential future change of use of the 700 MHz band.”
At the same time, Ofcom is also looking for advice on the measures that it can and take to reduce the disruption to Freeview and how costs can be avoided. By 2018, it’s expected that we’ll all be using next-gen DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 equipment – aka Freevieew HD – which is capable of receiving broadcasts which take up less space on the airwaves, while providing higher quality broadcasts. So in essence, we’ve got something of a second switchover on our hands.
Right now, research on 5G in the UK is underway at the University of Sussex to determine what kinds of download speeds and services consumers could expect. Ofcom’s chief technology officer Steve Unger recently predicted that by 2030, we’d be using 80 times the amount of data we are now, highlighting the need for early planning of next-gen mobile broadband services.
Ofcom’s consultation is open until June 5, 2013, so we can expect to hear more about plans for 5G in the UK then.
Image credit: Flickr user woodleywonderworks