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Save Freeview from mobile expansion says Digital UK head

Freeview’s frequency management body has called for Ofcom to protect the choice of channels and coverage as mobile services demand more of the airwaves.

Digital UK is writing to the UK’s communications regulator, with its owners, BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, to demand security for Freeview.

Formed to manage the British TV’s Digital Switchover from 2007-2012, Digital UK now operates the Freeview programme guide and is moving some channels from the 800MHz band to make way for 4G mobile broadband.

The UK now faces international pressure to move Freeview out of the 700MHz band after 2018, which could force it to cut the number of channels available.

Save Freeview from mobile expansion says Digital UK head
Freeview could be squashed down to make room for mobile broadband

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to The Future of FreeviewCaroline Thomson, chair of Digital UK, told TV industry magazine Broadcast (paywall): “In the coming months we will work with Freeview, broadcasters and Ofcom to explore how best to enable the platform to evolve so mobile and Freeview can flourish alongside each other.

“The UK’s 40 million Freeview viewers must not see their TV service suffer in terms of channel choice or coverage.”

Digital Switchover cost around £1bn, and around one-third of British homes had to install a new aerial to get signals, as well as buying a Freeview TV or set-top box.

Moving Freeview out of 700MHz could be offset slightly by releasing empty frequencies at 600MHz cleared during Digital Switchover, but could be a lot more disruptive for aerial replacements.

Thomson, formerly chief operating officer of the BBC, warned that Freeview might have to reduce the number of channels to fit into the reduced space.

“It’s Ofcom’s job to act in the interests of consumers and citizens – Freeview viewers and mobile users alike,” she said.

“Should there be another shakeup, viewers will want accurate information about how they will be affected and should not be expected to bear the cost of any new aerials or reception equipment needed to continue receiving their current channels.”

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