Ofcom raises spectre of 4G mobile signals interfering with Freeview

Darren Allan

June 2, 2011

Ofcom has been bigging up the auction and re-use of the 800MHz spectrum for 4G as part of the not-spot UK’s way out of the broadband quagmire for a while now.

However, there’s a side-effect to the re-allocation of 800MHz spectrum which Ofcom hasn’t been quite so vocal about. That’s the fact that 4G signals can interfere with digital TV broadcasts such as Freeview, as digital terrestrial television is adjacent to these frequencies (and no provision has been made for a guard band).

So today Ofcom published a proposal to show how it will deal with the problem, which could potentially affect up to 3% of DTT viewers.

Ofcom’s solution for the unlucky minority is having a filter fitted to their TV aerial, which should do the trick in most cases. The implementation of this will be charged to the mobile networks who’ll make use of the new spectrum.

Apparently around 0.1% of viewers might not be able to use this solution, and Ofcom is currently considering options in these cases which may include some viewers “changing platforms”.

That’s a polite way of saying they’re snookered (which is a polite way of saying they’re…. we can’t print that, actually). In other words, these viewers will have to switch to cable or satellite.

It all sounds more than a little messy, but ultimately any costs should be met by the operators. Ofcom is carrying out more research into exactly what can be done in the problem areas, with a consultation underway, the results of which will be published in the autumn.

4G will go live in the UK come 2013.


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