4G: “2 million” to have disrupted TV signal

12th February 2013

UK Telecoms watchdog Ofcom has finally confirmed what the Government warned about last year – over 2 million homes in the UK could have their TV signal disrupted by the full nationwide rollout of the 4G spectrum.

From this year, in certain geographical areas, viewers of FreeView could be hit with signal interference, channel loss, and image distortion.  This is not down to the actual 4G signal itself, but the fact it will be taking over use of the same 800MHz band that FreeView TV is currently using.  All FreeView TV sets are currently set to receive the same airwaves that terrestrial TV had always been using.

In order to tackle the problem, it would be possible for most viewers to install a filter, which blocks out the 4G signal from their TV set.  However, this filter could cost up to an enormous £10,000 per TV to install.

MP John Whittingdale – the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – claims 38,500 homes would still be affected after filter installation, with around 18,000 of these homes owning primarily digital terrestrial TVs.  Up to 1000 homes would be completely unable to use their TV, even after filter installation, due to close proximity to transmitters.  These homes would be given up to £10,000 to find an alternative solution to FreeView TV.

The website “4G Britain” (set up by Everything Everywhere to provide information and raise awareness on the 4G services of which it was the first network to roll out), claims that the fixes to most of the problems 4G is going to cause with TV sets can – and will – be fixed for free.  This is largely down to the Government requesting all UK service providers contribute to a fund of at least £180 million to help remedy the disruptions caused in UK households.

A not-for-profit organisation called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL) has also been established in order to assess the severity of the forthcoming problems, and position itself accordingly to provide information to affected households with regards to dealing with them.

This is bound to cause a sense of bad feeling towards the new 4G band, which has already experienced severe delays before Ofcom finally launched the spectrum for auction earlier this year.  John Whittingdale has called for the service to be further delayed whilst further tests and trials are carried out across the country, in order to minimise disruption.

Meanwhile, last month, EE were also forced to reduce the price of their 4G packages and increase the range of handsets it was available on.  This was due to severe lack of interest and claims the service was overpriced because of lower data allowances than on 3G phone deals, despite costing more.

Robin James