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back to article Freeview TV shoved aside for iPad-compatible 4G

Ofcom's latest wheeze for better wireless broadband in the UK is to bump Freeview down into the 600MHz space no one wants, enabling US-compatible LTE for anyone still using a new iPad come 2018. As part of its ongoing efforts to satisfy the public's unquenchable thirst for mobile bandwidth Ofcom's proposal involves shifting the …

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Unhappy

As long as they leave 863.100 MHz to 864.900 MHz alone. These are currently the free to use de-regulated frequencies used by radio mics etc and I can imagine the compensation required should these frequencies be closed to be not inconsiderable.

Mind you 854-861 is supposed to be cleared out this year but I frankly see a lot of people sitting on their hands who will probably continue to use them after shut off.

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Anonymous Coward

this

Lot have no idea.....

Another frequency change, or is this being used to stimulate the electronics market and force us to buy more stuff we don't need.

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Power

I know this is an unfashionable concern, perhaps particularly on El Reg, but what about the relative power consumption of broadcast vs. do things over lots and lots of cells? Might come in handy when the oil / gas gets expensive and the French and Germans have failed to build nuclear power stations in our country for some unaccountable reason (say, it's not their country, for example, and they don't trust our politicians further than they could spit them).

Clearly, this country arguably has the coal reserves [citation needed] so maybe sending the unemployed teenagers down t' new pits as a 'workfare' scheme after the 2015 election, in order to provide the power for the baby boomers to watch crappy nostalgia shows on their iPads in their retirement flats, may be the plan, but I think we should go into this one with our eyes open.

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Re: Power

For broadcast, you are literally blanketing the country in a signal strong enough to wipe out anything else in that band (maybe not locally, but generally). You're doing that 24/7 to every area of the country, no matter who uses it.

For "single-cast", you use the power necessary to cover the change in already-present Internet/mobile traffic to cover that single instance of a single show for AS LONG AS THE USER WATCHES IT and not a second longer. You can also do fabulous compression, power-saving, etc. that you can't really do on broadcast (this is where digital TV wins - the MPEG compression).

Broadcast is an inherently "leaky" technology. Broadcast stations are pumping out kilowatts of power all the time, and are dotted all over the country. And then we're pumping out kilowatts more for network infrastructure (which, per user, comes to something just-as-negligible as broadcast). When we could just be using that network infrastructure PLUS A TINY BIT MORE to cope with the single-streaming of whatever we want, whenever we need (and worst case is we have someone who watches 24/7 and doesn't take up less than a leaky broadcast to their house would).

The inverse square law. You're pumping out MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more power than you ever need to (literally, firing it out into space, into mountains, into the sea, into the floor underneath you, etc. all the time). But a little flickering optical light running down a fibre to as many people? Not quite so much and already (mostly) in place and likely to expand quicker than TV broadcasting ever has.

Plus, there are a billion-and-one extra advantages to having everyone wired for common household utilities (including "you can't turn people's Internet off" as one!), knowing EXACTLY what they watch rather than relying on polls, etc.

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Re: Power

If you want some figures too:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Palace_Transmitter

Look in the "KW" columns. Add them all up. All for one tower (admittedly in a populated area, but still). Then multiply by all the transmitters. We're talking hundreds of GW of power to deliver some TV signals. That could easily be absorbed into the telecoms network and not take anywhere near as much power.

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FAIL

Re: Power

> Look in the "KW" columns. Add them all up

and you will get completely the wrong answer.

TV transmitter powers are given as EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) which takes into account the antenna gain. The actual power of the transmitter is more like 1/10th that listed in the EIRP tables. A "100kW" transmitter is pumping closer to 10kW into the antenna. For a transmitter like Crystal Palace that reaches 8m or so people, it's a tiny amount per viewer.

Compare that to the costs of powering network infrastructure with an individual feed to each home and broadcast is orders of mangiture more efficient.

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Re: Power

Indeed. If you were trying to find the dumbest way to deliver TV you'd struggle to beat the Internet as a choice.

However, the "people in charge" are as clueless as most of the users, so don't expect it to matter.

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WTF?

Re: Power

@Lee Dowling

"We're talking hundreds of GW of power to deliver some TV signals."

What utter nonsense. The total installed generating capacity in the UK is only about 100GW, so how on Earth you think it takes "hundreds of GW to deliver some TV signals" I've no idea. Even if we do take your rather naive interpretation of what the transmitter power ratings mean (as the figures are ERP and include the net effect of antenna gain - that is allowing for most power being transmitted at a relatively narrow angle towards the horizon), then the nominal total is only 1MW for all the digital TV signals from the Crystal Palace transmitter after switchover. That's to serve a population approaching 10 million people (as the coverage area goes way beyond the Greater London area). Admittedly analogue TV uses more power, but as it's digital TV that is being discussed, it's hardly relevant.

To get your 100s of GW, then you'd have to multiply the nominal power rating of all the channels (analogue & digital) by many tens of thousands of similar transmitters.

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Anonymous Coward

Today's sets ?

SO these gleaming new, Freeview HD, 3D all singing and dancing TVs... that you buy today, will they cope with the new frequencies or will this be another reason for buying a new set or some ugly additional set top box ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Today's sets ?

Yes, the proposed changes don't move Freeview outside the channel range that TVs and set top boxes can already scan, so TVs themselves will be fine. However, a significant number of non-wideband TV aerials may need replacing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Today's sets ?

"SO these gleaming new, Freeview HD, 3D all singing and dancing TVs... that you buy today, will they cope with the new frequencies..."

Of course not! Didn't you get the memo about enforced obsolescence that OFCOM sent out when they decided to use the undefined DVB-T2 standard for Freeview HD, instead of the existing standard that "HD Ready" TVs already used? Did we really need the extra compression just to fit in those shopping and +1 channels?

Each time OFCOM pull this stunt, a percentage of viewers without a set-top box will opt to "future-proof" themselves by getting one, possibly subscribing to a paid service that they wouldn't have otherwise considered. OFCOM won't have completed the task they were paid for until everyone watches TV through one of Mr Murdoch's little boxes.

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Re: Today's sets ?

HD-Ready is a much-abused term.

HD-Ready meant a TV could operate as an HD *monitor*. So it has the appropriate resolution, and it plays the HDCP game. Therefore you can plug it into an HD player / reciever and be happy that it was indeed future-compatible as promised.

They were selling HD-ready TVs long before it was practical to make cheap HD receivers / decoders, of whatever technology or standard. Therefore complaining that they don't receive what is now being broadcast isn't pertinent. Plug them into a new box and they will display it.

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@AC 11:58

That "undefined" standard was approved by the ETSI in September 2009, and can run side-by-side with older DVB-T channels. It gives 60%+ extra capacity in the same space, gives better error correction, uses a better video CODEC (non of the blocky artefacts of MPEG2 video) and defines HD modes that didn't exist in the old DVB-T standard.

The channels that FreeView does have (like them or not) all have to fit into less spectrum and HD coverage is being rolled out nationally at the same time. Something had to give way, and the idea that you'd have been able to watch HD digital on an old FreeView TV without using an external decoder is laughable anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Today's sets ?

>> However, a significant number of non-wideband TV aerials may need replacing.

Not forgetting the very expensive transmit antennas atop the mast and the signal combiners in the "hut" at the bottom.

BTW - to those above arguing about the power usage - there might be about 1000 TV transmitters in the UK but most only transmit a few watts, Chesterfield tx transmits all six muxes with an ERP of 400 Watts each. Ludlow Tx delivers 5 Watts for the three public services muxes. By way of comparison how many cell towers are located in the same area and what are their power requirements? The ones round here have lots of air conditioning kit outside - not cheap to power.

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Re: Today's sets ?

I decided long ago that terrestrial broadcasting was a bad idea and satellite made sense, except for places overshadowed by mountains or high-rise buildings.

I took an old 1m sat dish, fitted an eight output LNB and now all my viewing is off freesat.

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Boffin

Re: @AC 11:58

Quite a few European countries use dvb-t1 and hd as does Australia.

There are many people who bought Freeview dvb-t1 TVs which could decode such HD and didn't know they'd be stuck with SD

OTOH we are stuck with DAB when Offing could have mandate DAB+ compatible receivers years ago to prepare consumers for a better quality radio system.

The management of spectrum resources and use in the UK has been appalling and too often seen as a way of milking revenues instead of a public asset to be stewarded for the benefit of the people.

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@Paul

> There are many people who bought Freeview dvb-t1 TVs which could decode such HD and didn't know they'd be stuck with SD

But that's an argument for OFT/Trading Standards/ASA getting involved and stopping what were blatantly misleading descriptions.

I can't get any HD channels as I don't have any compatible kit - but I do support having used it. You yourself make the point about OfCon failing to mandate DAB+ compatibility and thus leaving us stuck with the inferior DAB. In this case, putting HD on DVB-T2 has inherently forced all manufacturers (apart from the liars who sell DVB-T kit as capable of getting HD transmissions in the UK) to incorporate T2 receivers in HD kit.

They *could* have put HD out on DVB-T - but then people would be moaning about why the UK went with DVB-T (DAB) when we could have had the better DVB-T2 (DAB+) standard if only "the authorities" had mandated T2 (DAB+) compatibility.

Give it a few more years and I can't help thinking we'll start to hear talk of switching more muxes to T2 to get more capacity (adding any more muxes has already be ruled out, especially when the spectrum has been got rid of) - but that would really need T2 capability being mandated for anything sold as "Freeview".

As for transmitter power, as others have said, the actual power isn't as high as you might think, and when you divide that by the number of people served, the power/person is very low - many of the figures are under 1W/person. There is no way whatsoever that you could get the same service* to lots of people without using more power. Even if you have existing kit (end user routers etc) already running, the incremental power from putting the extra data through the system will probably exceed the savings from shutting down the transmitters.

And that's before you start talking non-cabled systems to support mobile users.

* Note service, not data. Where service means any user can pick any of the programs being transmitted.

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Is Ofcom paid for now?

NT

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is Ofcom paid for now?

They've certainly been bought.

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HD freeview hopes out the window

After reading that Sweden has 7 muxes, 2 which are HD, I wondered when the UK would get the same. We may as well give up an just move everyone to satellite or cable.

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Is it just me who thinks 100% IP TV is scarey?

My largest concern is availability.

Is there anyone on here who can claim knowledge of a DTT transmission fault that caused loss of reception for days and days? I certainly haven't.

But I, as I suspect many others, can identify with long periods of flakey broadband or length outages due to cable theft incidents etc. 5 days on my last one, and to think they that may one day be my primary source of TV too - this is in some way progress?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it just me who thinks 100% IP TV is scarey?

Is it just ADSL ?

I switched to Virgin Media over a year ago. I've had a few issues but nothing that resetting their dire Cable Router hasn't sorted and it's consistently fast (only the 30 Mbit/s for me, can't justify any more). Perhaps I'm lucky (I'm sure others will pip up with any tales of woe).

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Meh

RE:Is it just ADSL ?

Generally yes. The copper of the ADSL wires has a high scrap/resale value.. fibre optics not so much..

However many areas do not have the choice of Virgin Media, even if they did want to pay a subscription for televison.

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Re: Is it just me who thinks 100% IP TV is scarey?

It's not an unreasonable leap of imagination.

Consider this: People are generally watching lot of different TV channels and increasingly just recording stuff to watch later.

If you combine those two activities with some kind of PVR (FreeView+, Sky+, V+, Tivo, etc.), most of the recorded programmes pre-selected for recording and probably even "series linked", then you only need to add internet connectivity to these boxes to allow you to just schedule downloads to take place in quiet times.

Add in a local server or some P2P type of service and it could be relatively efficient. You could even pre-download all of part of a series, but then instruct the box not to make it available for playback until a certain day+time.

Don't forget we're talking ~20 years into the future when (hopefully) internet connectivity would be much faster and more reliable.

Your only real outstanding problem is those things that are transmitted live (sports, news, etc), but in 20 years there may only be a fairly small number of people who watch these things live anyway.

One possibility for the news would be to download pre-recorded news items during the day and then have the set-up box queue them in on instruction from the central broadcaster.

Actually, thinking about it, we're on the road already; the BBC iPlayer desktop application can be instructed to download episodes of a series as they become available, which is currently a few hours after broadcast. It wouldn't take much of a change to allow the download to happen before broadcast and have the iPlayer "hide" the download until transmission time.

TBH, the biggest road-block to any of this happening is the content owners not the technology.

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Anonymous Coward

Soon everyone will have an iPad so we won't need Freeview unless it's FreeviewIP.

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Anonymous Coward

'But I, as I suspect many others, can identify with long periods of flakey broadband or length outages due to cable theft incidents etc. 5 days on my last one, and to think they that may one day be my primary source of TV too - this is in some way progress?"

Wait and see what would happen if someone were to vandalise a transmitter - just tell some crooks the tower is made from aluminium and copper and it would be gone... THAT would take a lot more than 5 days to replace.

Broadband these days is much more reliable - or at least it should be - your normal phone line probably has seen very little downtime?

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My phone line has had more downtime than my ADSL

Over the last five years I've lost ADSL for a few hours at most, and so far not at a time of day when I really noticed it.

I've lost my phone line for two days - while the ADSL was still working. I still don't quite understand how BT performed that trick.

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Re: My phone line has had more downtime than my ADSL

"I've lost my phone line for two days - while the ADSL was still working. I still don't quite understand how BT performed that trick."

Apart from the physical cable connection to your house the 2 systems are completely seperate.

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Anonymous Coward

Vandalise a Transmitter

It's not the metal that gets nicked at broadcast transmitter sites. It's the transmitters boxes themselves and associated transmission kit.

Many smaller sites are in isolated locations. Gangs go in very well equipped. Even if alarmed there's lots of time to get in and out, especially if the polices attention is elsewhere such as on a Friday night. I've worked at a place where we had our transmitter nicked and they came back the following week to try (and fail) to nick the transmitter we had on loan!

I was told by an engineer at a large transmission company that the units end up smuggled out of the country and sold in developing markets rather than the pirate operators who used to want them.

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Would existing Freeview equipment work in 600mhz?

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Anonymous Coward

Broadcast TV is going to die out sooner or later to make way for on-demand and / or IP-TV. As a family we watch very little broadcast TV - when you have things like Apple TV, Netflix you don't need it. Would make more sense for each house to have a fibre connection - 100mbps onto the Internet and Freeview to be broadcast over IP.

I'm not saying it's going to be in the next year to two - but 5+ years...

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The main advantage of broadcast is...

The main advantage of Broadcast TV is that it has always been open. There are (nearly) no proprietary systems. Everybody is allowed to record and store shows as much and as long as they want to.

As long as copyright still is as restrictive as it is, and DRM is legal, there will be a need for broadcast.

Broadcast always was a way of dealing with copyright. We pay collectively for the station to buy broadcast rights, so we can all get a copy. We also pay the station to hire producers and talents, or commission works so we can all enjoy it.

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Unhappy

Broadcast quality

I wish they worried less about the quality of the broadcast, and more about the quality of the programmes.

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I smell a rat

Are Ofcom in the Pocket of the Mobile Industry?

There are various reasons why IPTV can only be a compliment to Broadcast. Technical and financial.

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Linux

If it's digital streaming they can cut you off

Broadcast TV should be ubiquitous and available at the flip of a switch, for reasons of public safety and democratic process. If there's a proprietary CoDec involved any number of people can pull the plug.

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You won't need a new box. You will need a new aerial.

Channels 31 to 38 (aka the gap between band IV and band V) are the channels no TV aerial is designed to receive. Hence why, in the pre-SCART days, VCRs used to have their RF output somewhere in that range -- and also why, in the analogue days, Channel Five was so difficult to pick up.

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FAIL

Re: You won't need a new box. You will need a new aerial.

What a load of utter tosh!

Let's repeat that statement: "Channels 31 to 38 (aka the gap between band IV and band V) are the channels no TV aerial is designed to receive"

So I take it you missed the launch of Channel 5 in the UK? Or digital TV?

Let's take Crystal Palace, serving one of the largest populations in the UK.

BBC 2 Analogue - Channel 33

Mux A Digital - Channel 32

Mux C Digital - Channel 34

And Channel 5 is down the road at Croydon broadcasting on Channel 37

So Mr A J Stiles, you claim *NO* Tv aerial is designed to receive these frequencies? I'm puzzled.

What you presumably mean is that in the old days of grouped aerials, you had to have an aerial that was optimised for the transmission group you were receiving (A, B , C etc). Since Channel 5 came on the air and certainly since digital started most installers have fitted wideband aerials.

Certainly every aerial I've had fitted since the mid 90's has been wideband.

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Stop taking the mickey out of Google+

I love it. It took ages to find a social network suitable for someone like me who doesn't have any friends.

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M7S
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What about situations of regional or national emergency?

I have a concern about the apparent gradual withdrawal of broadcast facilities, I recall (hopefully correctly) that the centres of regional government could in times of crisis broadcast so that we could all get bulletins on our battery powered transister radios, and that one LW tower could cover most of the UK. I think TV might also have been covered but I am not sure about this.

It's all very well the internet having been designed to survive an atomic war but should our national infrastructure be damaged so that there is no reliable electricity then all the routers and switches that the public (I assume the military and essential government have their own more robust circuits, but could well be wrong) rely on will not be humming along, either in homes or in the local exchanges. I fear that as BT rolls out Century 21 and our voice goes increasingly over IP that the resilience of that POTS which currently carries (sorry) its own power (30v DC?) will also be removed. The military will probably be capable of generating their own power, most civilians are not.

I recall that less than a decade ago a severe winter took out a phase of mains power to us for six days, just outside of London. We managed due to the aforementioned radio and gas flame heating and I probably could have dug out a 12v TV and run this off the car battery if really required. If we were to lose broadcast (and possibly telephony as well) then the consequences for public morale could be significant.

And that of course is just a civil emergency, if we really were under attack in such circumstances then the chances of moderating panic in the absence of central communications would be zero. Certainly if I was an attacker I would be looking to this to sow chaos whether the warfare is assymetrical or not (on that point I've a few other ideas regarding our vulnerabilities but cannot discuss them, even to prepare defences, as it's probably illegal).

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Thumb Down

Re: What about situations of regional or national emergency?

"the chances of moderating panic in the absence of central communications would be zero"

bought any petrol lately?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about situations of regional or national emergency?

"Moderating" in the sense of "presiding over" and "controlling", clearly.

Please arrange for some panic tomorrow, we need a distraction.

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Boffin

An excellent point well made...

But I feel I have to point out that, contrary to popular myth, the Internet was not "designed to survive an atomic war". ARPAnet was designed to allow partners in ARPA-funded projects to share each other's computing facilities. The Internet grew out of ARPAnet as a way to integrate other research/academic networks with different physical infrastructures. Nothing to do with atomic wars.

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Thumb Up

Seems reasonable to me. The days of broadcast TV are probably coming to an end so why bother to give them more space? I still think a wired connection is best for most things but prioritising on-demand interactive access seems quite sensible to me.

Oh gawd. I'm agreeing with Ofcom. Send the men in white coats :(

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Anonymous Coward

"If we were to lose broadcast (and possibly telephony as well) then the consequences for public morale could be significant."

The government probably has something in place to 'broadcast' SMS to all our mobile phones and we still have radio (for now) if they do need to get the message across - probably just as good as TV.

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Headmaster

Indeed...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_Mobile_Alert_System

Not sure it will quite be as good as the telly, but it's there... (or is being built)

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Meh

ridiculous

This is a stupid idea, why should everything give way to the internet? theres still plenty of places even in the UK that get worthless broadband because it isnt cost effective to support them.

Peoples use of bandwidth will expand to fill whatever provision they make, and with usage limits being such a pathetic joke i dont see the need to have more space...you'd already reach your monthly limit within an hour using 4G speeds.

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Anonymous Coward

We got rid of the armada beacons as well...

I would not shed a tear for 'broadcast' TV if it means we move forwards to 4G and future technologies - people hold on to the past too much until they see / realise what they could have.

On-demand is freedom to choose what and when - unless you want to be a sheep and watch 'scheduled' TV - baaa baa.

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"I would not shed a tear for 'broadcast' TV if it means we move forwards to 4G and future technologies - people hold on to the past too much until they see / realise what they could have.

On the other hand it could be that (in this case at least) people hold on to the past because they've worked out just how much investment and disruption would be required to get sufficient broadband bandwidth to support multiple concurrent on-demand HD streams to every last little cottage, hamlet, and farm in those (quite significant) tracts of the country which currently have perfectly good Freeview reception but lousy (or nonexistent) broadband access. Of course there's always satellite but then that's just another broadcast technology and requries reserved spectrum (albeit not as much of it because you don't have to space channels to prevent adjacent transmitters interfering) just like terrestrial broadcasting does...

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TWB

Fewer TV channels

As an old fart who works in TV, I have said for years that I was happy with 5/4 channels - I don't see this desire for loads of them - I can only watch one at a time.

Maybe Ofcom could drop a mux....who needs shopping channels anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fewer TV channels

Quite; in fact, I think three broadcast TV channels were already enough, thank you very much (and BBC2 isn't what it was without the OU or those jolly interesting programmes in the '60s that explained how colour TV worked, for the benefit of TV engineers and precocious children).

There was barely enough good quality stuff to occupy three. Nowadays, the total amount of decent programming has gone down and the chance of finding any of it across dozens of channels is almost non-existent. In fairness, BBC3-4 and RT are better than average.

Similarly for wireless: Light, Home and Third were just right for the listening public.

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