A second digital switchover could be on the cards thanks to the launch of 5G, warns the VLV in its latest report.
The VLV (the Voice of the Listener and Viewer group) is concerned about the wording of Ofcom’s Draft Annual Plan for 2013-2014 and wants clarification on Freeview’s move into the 600MHz band of spectrum.
Ofcom plans to use the more efficient Freeview HD technology (DVB-T2 and MPEG-4) which can occupy smaller slices of the spectrum while providing higher definition, higher quality broadcasts.
This is an essential step for making way for future services such as 5G, which is expected to launch on the 700MHz band after 2018.
However the VLV is concerned that a shift to Freeview HD will render obsolete older, non-HD Freeview equipment, which operates on the older DVB-T and MPEG-2 standards.
This will, the VLV says, force consumers into buying new TV sets or set top boxes to replace those that may only be a few years old, in order to comply with a new technical standard.
Freeview HD will make Freeview obsolete
In 2018, 13 years after the UK’s digital switchover began, customers would be forced into shelling out for Freeview HD equipment. The flipside of this migration is that broadcast quality should significantly improve, though this likely won’t impress those for whom HD isn’t essential.
Elsewhere, Ofcom is hoping to make the idea of upgrading to Freeview HD more appealing with plans to launch 10 more Freeview HD channels in 2014. There are currently five HD channels available on Freeview, not a huge selection but Ofcom hopes: “The expanded range of services available could provide incentives for consumers to accelerate the take-up of [Freeview HD].”
Given that many UK viewers took plenty of persuading and help to swap their old analogue sets for digital ones before switchover finished for good, not to mention the threat of interference posed by 4G, we can foresee more than a few people not being too happy about this.
A second switchover could see the return of Digital UK’s mascot Digit Al (remember him?) encouraging a new generation of buys to switch to next-gen Freeview in the coming years.