The UK’s major mobile networks, O2, Three, Vodafone and EE (T-Mobile and Orange) have committed to forming a joint venture to ensure that 4G mobile broadband signals do not interfere with Freeview reception.
The problem could hit hundreds of thousands of homes once 4G services begin in the 800MHz frequency band in 2013.
At the beginning of October the network operators agreed a plan with communications regulator Ofcom to bring forward the launch of 4G in the 800MHz band, which has been freed up following the switch off of analogue TV channels. These wide-scale 4G services may start as early as spring 2013, instead of the originally planned start date of next autumn.
As part of this accelerated rollout, today Ofcom announced that the mobile operators had agreed “ahead of time” to form a joint venture, which will now be known as Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited. This body will be responsible for sending UHF filters to homes in affected areas, arranging for specialist modifications to aerials or, if those measures fail, paying to install an alternative service such as Freesat or cable TV.
Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited will be funded by the existing mobile operators, or any new companies that successfully bid to run a 4G service during the upcoming auction process. Dealing with terrestrial TV interference from 4G will be one of the conditions written into the operating licence for any 4G supplier.
“The roll-out of 4G is a huge step forward for mobile broadband services in the UK, and will be incredibly important in driving economic growth,” said Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. “I am pleased that the mobile operators will be working together to ensure that no viewers lose their television services when 4G is rolled out, and congratulate them on setting up the assistance scheme so quickly.”
In the mean time EE is to begin a 4G service in the 1800MHz band in selected UK cities, starting from the end of October. These signals will not interfere with digital TV broadcasts.