After the new 4G spectrum is switched on this year, up to 2.3 million homes are expected to experience significant levels of interference with their TV signal. This disruption is set to occur due to the new spectrum being close in band to the popular digital terrestrial service, Freeview, used by millions of customers across the UK.
Even though some 40,000 homes are likely to lose their TV signal altogether, there has not yet been any public advertising or warnings released regarding the scale and immediacy of the problem. In order to prevent interference and continue to watch TV normally, householders will need to book a free visit from an engineer to install a filter, free of charge. It is likely, however, that households with more than one TV set may have to purchase additional filters, at a cost of around £5 each.
The worst affected cases, where signal is lost altogether, will have to be moved over to alternative services, such as Sky or cable, with full compensation. DMSL, the agency responsible for overseeing the launch, are understood to be building a website and setting up a call centre to deal with engineer requests and other signal problems. Some concerns have been raised over the capacity of such resources however, with the potential scale of the interference reaching millions of households across the UK.
The 4G auction is currently underway, and is set to raise £3.5 billion. Seven companies, including Vodafone, EE, Telefonica and BT, are currently bidding for their share of the new spectrum, and it is expected that the results of their bids will be available within the next few weeks. The switchover will take place after licences have been granted, in May or June of this year. Whilst 4G is already in use in some areas of the UK by the network EE, they are currently not using a spectrum that affects TV signals.
Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, argues that the new 4G spectrum will boost the amount of the spectrum available to mobile devices by more than 75%, and will deliver better, faster and more reliable wireless broadband connections. However, TV interference will occur all across the country in homes within 1.25 miles of 4G transmitters – including around 657,000 households in London, 202,000 in the Midlands, 188,000 in north-west England, 157,000 in Yorkshire and 162,000 in central Scotland. Areas set to be worst affected include homes served by the Crystal Palace transmitter in London, and the Winter Hill transmitter in Lancashire.
The chief executive of DMSL, Simon Beresford-Wylie, said last week: “DMSL plans to pre-empt the majority of potential interference issues caused by 4G.”We are focused on being able to provide anyone who may be affected with the information and equipment they’ll need to ensure they continue to receive free-to-air TV.”