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Signal improvements in North East England but still problems for Teeside and the Durham coast

Arqiva has enhanced the signal delivered by two of its relay transmitters in North East England. The company continues to fill in coverage gaps left by the loss of the original Bilsdale transmitter. Freeview signal improvement at Seaham and Sunderland relays means both sites can provide better coverage in homes affected. 

A retune is not required “at this point”, according to Arqiva. The signal improvement was implemented on 14th January, according to the company. The coastal area between Hartlepool and Sunderland is split between coverage from Bilsdale and coverage from Pontop Pike transmitters. It forms the northern edge of Bilsdale’s coverage. Temporary transmitter masts in and around the North York Moors are unable to provide the same level of coverage up the coast. Both Seaham and Sunderland already relay a signal from Pontop Pike. Meanwhile, work to complete a more sturdy temporary tower at Bilsdale is nearly complete. The mast is adjacent to the site of the original Bilsdale mast, and will replace the current temporary structure at Bilsdale Quarry. It will remain in service until a new mast is completed in 2023.

Meanwhile the arrival of new, more sturdy temporary mast at Bilsdale will result in some viewers along the coast losing their signal. The new temporary mast is designed to withstand bad weather and strong winds in the moors. The current temporary mast, erected in October already suffered reliability issues during Storm Barra in December. The new structure is of a similar height. Final work is taking place before the new mast goes live next month. Arqiva is promising a signal improvement for around 100,000 homes in the coverage area. But for viewers mostly along a strip of the County Durham coast, line of sight will be lost. This is due to a ‘signal shadow’ created by the edge of the North York Moors between the new transmitter site and the local area.

Support to be offered
Arqiva is writing to around 2,500 households to let them know about the situation. It thinks half of these homes solely rely on Freeview for their TV service. As a result, they will lose their TV signal again. To help affected households, Arqiva is offering a free aerial repointing service. This will allow engineers to visit homes to switch aerials around to point at Pontop Pike or a relay transmitter. Viewers in areas where there’s no alternative signal available will be offered a Freesat installation. All affected households have been notified of a contact telephone number to get in touch with Arqiva.

Permanent mast live sooner rather than later
In its first official statement on the matter, Arqiva says it’s “working hard” with its suppliers to get the new mast up this year. If all goes well, the new permanent mast can go live before spring 2023. Shuja Khan, Chief Commercial Officer of Arqiva, said; “We want to restore and improve services to people across the region as quickly as possible, and we have set out more details and likely timescales through 2022, including a huge construction project to permanently replace the old Bilsdale Mast. While we are making real progress, we also know that this work can cause disruption, and that is frustrating for many viewers and listeners. We are working hard with our partners to restore services, and to support those people whose services are affected.”

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