With some reports suggesting that 4G will interrupt Freeview signals, a new organisation has been set up to minimise disruption and test the interference levels in areas throughout the UK. The organisation is known as the at800 group, a name derived from the 800MHz frequency that the 4G LTE network will take over in 2013 and beyond as the 4G rollout continues.
As users of 4G phones in major towns and cities in the UK start to gain access to superfast services, the at800 group is setting to work on limiting the extent at which 4G will disrupt Freeview television signals. When it was first revealed that the UK would be getting a functional 4G network and that it could potentially disrupt Freeview signals, the culture minister Ed Vaizey said that as many as 945,000 households using signal amplifiers could be affected by the rollout. Also potentially facing interruption to signals were 953,000 households relying on communal aerials. At the time, a spokesperson for The Voice of the Listener and Viewer said:
“These proposals to sell spectrum to mobile phone operators in order to raise millions for the Treasury could remove the option of free-to-air television from millions of viewers,”
“This runs completely against the UK’s system of public service broadcasting whereby there is universal access for all citizens to programmes made by the main terrestrial channels. It is an outrage.”
As well as outlining the benefits that users of 4G compatible phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, Apple iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 can expect to enjoy in the next few years, once the super-fast 4G network has been fully rolled out, the government has taken measures to minimise disruption to Freeview signals. The £180 million raised at an Ofcom auction of major mobile operators for the remaining 4G spectrum (Everything Everywhere or EE had the lion’s share of the spectrum before the auction) has been given to the at800 group. The money will be used primarily to provide affected viewers with a free signal boosting filter, which should hopefully solve any problems. Some households will even get their free filter fitted by an engineer, a service which is also being provided free of charge.
The at800 group is also using its funding to test the 4G network to see how it will affect Freeview signals. Limited trials have started, in which the group’s tester temporarily switch on 4G masts in areas in the West Midlands and then ask residents for their feedback on any interrupted signals.