The end of analogue TV and a completed switch to digital has freed frequency spectrum that can be used for other services now that TV services make more economical use of what was purely TV transmission bandwidth. More programmes can be fitted in less space which has made room for ‘Fourth Generation’ (4G) mobile services related to fast, mobile broadband.
To move forward the development of spare frequency space the government are hoping to auction the available space by the end of this year (2012).
4G will involve much higher power base stations and mobile devices. The mobile device could be a smart phone, tablet or a plug-in dongle. The first roll-out is planned to cover Britain’s major conurbation areas so there is not likely to be rural benefit in early stages.
Auctions are planned for December 2012 with transmissions starting in May 2013. However one company, Everything Everywhere (EE, who own Orange and T – Mobile) have started advertising 4G services and this has caused confusion with the public. EE have been granted the use of old 2G frequencies around 1800 MHz for a version of 4G. This will not cause problems with terrestrial digital television but, due to the higher powers being used, may create issues with certain satellite programmes, especially if systems are not installed to standard.
The base station signals required for the new services have the potential to with interfere with some existing TV reception. TV aerials were traditionally manufactured just to cover a certain part of the TV spectrum related to local transmitters. However to enable a smooth switchover most of the aerials installed in recent times cover the whole of the spectrum and therefore capable of receiving LTE, giving rise to potential interference.
Ofcom believes that the fitting a filter will solve many of these problems and a company, MitCo, has been set up by government to deal with these issues and will initially supply a simple in-line filter to the consumer if they complain of interference. This will need to be fitted in front of any amplification and if this is the case, will need to be installed by a professional installer (the cost of doing this will most likely be covered by a voucher redemption scheme). Where a filter does not solve the issue then a fund will extend to paying for a change of platform. There is also a fund to assist the aged and vulnerable. The intention is to only cover the main TV in the property with any further sets being the responsibility of the householder.
Where a communal system is in place such as in blocks of flats or commercial buildings the problems could be more complex requiring trained, competent engineers and it is more than likely the owner of the system will have to cure the problem at their own expense.