4G rollout to cause 2m Freeview blackouts

Some UK residents to be left without Freeview services as 4G masts come online

Dave Stevenson
11 Feb 2013

4G could interfere with Freeview signals for 2.3 million households, requiring £180m to be spent on filters to solve the problem, according to Ofcom.

800MHz 4G signals will use an area of broadcast spectrum recently vacated by the defunct terrestrial TV signal, and could cause interference with some Freeview channels operating in a similar part of the spectrum.

Ofcom estimates around 2.3 million households could be affected, with 40% of those using Freeview as their only source of broadcast television.

There are going to be a very, very small minority where a filter doesn't work

The good news for consumers is the minority who experience problems can expect Ofcom to fix them, with the ombudsman reserving up to £180 million from the auction of LTE frequencies to fund the roll out of signal-saving filters.

Ofcom has estimated that around 1% of viewers won’t have their problems solved by a filter and will be offered an alternative platform such as Freesat. Of that 1%, up to a further 1,000 families will be left with no broadcast television at all.

"There are going to be a very, very small minority where [a filter] doesn't work," a spokesperson told PC Pro, adding that up to £10,000 has been allocated per household left to re-equip households left with no TV services whatsoever.

Residents of south Wales were forced to retune their Freeview boxes in January, as certain Freeview channels changed their frequencies to free capacity for LTE services.

Most of the problems will be addressed before the wider 4G roll out starts, said Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, a non-profit organisation that will oversee the rollout of LTE services when winners of the spectrum auction are announced next month. "DMSL plans to pre-empt the majority of potential interference issues caused by 4G at 800MHz," he said.

LTE services will run at 800Mhz and 2.6GHz in the UK - of these only the lower frequency will be prone to interfering with Freeview’s signal.

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