Approximately 760,000 people in the United Kingdom stand to suffer from interference to their Freeview digital terrestrial television (DTT) reception when the next generation of mobile services (4G) becomes operational in 2013. This information surfaced in a document issued by British media and communications regulator Ofcom, where the organisation initiated a consultation and outlined some proposals to tackle the problem.
4G telephony services – scheduled to be introduced in 2013 – is set to occupy the 800Mhz spectrum which will go on auction next year. However, since the 800Mhz band sits right next to the frequencies used in broadcasts of digital terrestrial television, Ofcom fears that 4G mobile signals may clash with DTT transmissions, causing an estimated 3% of digital television viewers to experience interference to their Freeview-capable HDTV displays and set-top boxes.
That said, there is still hope for these unfortunate viewers. The regulating body says that a large proportion of these cases can be thwarted by simply fitting a filter to the TV aerial. Similar in concept to microfilters plugged into phone sockets for broadband internet provision, the filter should shield the digital television broadcast signals from interfering 4G frequencies, hence restoring picture quality. Ofcom also suggests a nationwide awareness campaign (funded by future 4G network operators) to provide information and support to affected users.
Still, less than 0.1% of cases will remain refractory to filters, which means that up 30,000 UK residents may need to find alternative means of watching television. This may involve switching to a different platform, such as digital satellite (Freesat, Sky) or cable (Virgin Media) TV services.