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back to article So you won a 4G licence. The Freeview interference squad wants a word

The team to turn to when high-speed mobile broadband knocks out your Freeview signal has kicked off negotiations with this week's 4G auction winners. It's hoped that Brits will get four weeks of notice before up to two million TV screens go dark. The recently established body managing interference from new 4G services is called …

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Sigh

I thought the point of the whole digital switchover was to stop this sort of thing - "now we can expand without knocking out existing TV channels, because the TV channels are safely locked up in their own spectrum that isn't being underused and is just for TV". Another OfCom-plete failure.

And, to be honest, if my Freeview signal was affected, I'd be more likely to just switch it off and/or buy something more regulated from someone else. You don't get Sky or cable knocking out your transmission because the frequencies overlap with something else. Freeview will be the ones to suffer here, as well as customers.

I just love it. "Upgrade to digital", you say to all the old folks who don't know what SCART is - "You'll get a better picture more channels, and no interference - and we're turning off the old system anyway, so you have no choice". So they upgrade their aerials, fit signal boosters, change their TV or buy loads of adaptors, get comfortable and then next year it's "Oh, by the way, you have to do that all over again now because you'll get interference now from mobile phone masts and rather than just a little snow, you'll get an unwatchable corrupt MPEG stream ."

If we were talking 7000 people - okay. If we're talk 70,000 people, you have a problem. But they're honestly talking about 700,000 people - that's a good portion of the TV viewing audience across Britain. I think, if I was elderly, it would be that point at which I told them to stick it up their bum, sold my TV and stopped paying the licensing fee.

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Re: Sigh

"And, to be honest, if my Freeview signal was affected, I'd be more likely to just switch it off and/or buy something more regulated from someone else."

My cynical view is that they've worked out if they mess us around enough, so many people will do just that and move to Sky/cable/Freesat that they can just switch off Freeview altogether and flog off even more bandwidth to the mobile networks.

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Stop

Re: Sigh

It has nothing to do with frequency overlap with Freeview. The problem is that many people, pre-switchover, installed aerial amplifiers to get their Freeview signals. Those amplifiers cover the whole of the old UHF TV spectrum, 470-860MHz.

Today that TV spectrum only expands to 800MHz (and potentially lower in future), and the 800-860 MHz band is available for 4G. If you have an aerial amplifier covering that frequency range, and if you have a 4G signal near you, and if that 4g signal is strong enough to overload the amplifier, then all Freeview channels can be affected. Just because channel 60 is closest to the 4G end of the band has no bearing on whether it will be affected most.

Solutions include getting rid of the now-superfluous amplifiers or adding a filter at amplifier-input to block the 4G signal. Not so easy when the amplifier is on (or part of) the aerial, of course. It's very much a wait-and-see situation. Decent amplifiers will probably be OK, cheapy ones from Argos may not be.

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Holmes

Re: Sigh

"I think, if I was elderly, it would be that point at which I told them to stick it up their bum, sold my TV and stopped paying the licensing fee."

OAPs get their licence paid for by the government. Have done since 2001.

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Re: Sigh

And someone will pay to replace my multi-outlet TV amplifier in the loft that feeds all of the room in the house?

We need this because in West Somerset (in England), the closest transmitter is Wenvoe (in Wales), and I prefer not to get programs in a language I don't understand (I suppose that I could learn Welsh...), but that would still mean that I got S4C not Channel 4, and also that I would get Welsh news, weather etc. I had enough of that when I was working in Swansea.

So. I point my aerials at Mendip, and the signal strength even since switchover is marginal without an amplifier.

I do get fed up when people assume that you've only one TV in the house, and suggest a single solution like "buy Freesat or Sky" will only do that one TV. If I were to provide separate satellite boxes on every TV in the house (my kids are all grown up but living at home [unfortunately], and have their own TVs in their bedrooms), it would cost a fortune, and I would need at least an 8 port LNB, plus lots of point-to-point wiring.

I need Freeview to work, and as all of our channels are at the top end (we're still getting the multiplex with BBC1 on channel 61 at the moment, so will have to retune again at some point I guess), it is very likely we will be affected. And there is no cable installation.

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Re: Sigh

"I need Freeview to work, and as all of our channels are at the top end (we're still getting the multiplex with BBC1 on channel 61 at the moment, so will have to retune again at some point I guess), it is very likely we will be affected. And there is no cable installation."

27th March for your retune, down to C49

If you have problems when the 4G goes live then AT800 will sort them out. If the only way of solving your issues is to install freesat in all your rooms then I'd imagine that's what they'll do which is why they have up to £10,000 to spend.

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Re: Sigh

Sorry but in Selkirk we get one of our multiplexes on C62 which according to the UKfree thingy is in the 800MHz band - http://www.ukfree.tv/txdetail.php?a=NT500294 (until the April retune)

I note with interest that there may also be plans to shunt transmissions into the 600MHz band in the future and sell off the 700MHz band too.

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Re: Sigh

Not until they're 75 they don't.

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Re: Sigh

Wenvoe transmits channel 4 and s4c

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Re: Sigh

You wouldn't need an 8 port LNB. You'd only need 4 ports. One each for vertical high band, vertical low band, horizontal high band, and horizontal low band.

Using a special splitter box, these 4 inputs can drive any number of satellite receivers.

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@Phil O'Sophical

So these amplifiers... who approved them for sale, who licensed them, who fitted them, who allowed them to transmit in those frequency ranges? Are they ones that people fitted or that were given to them by the previous government schemes? Do they carry the FreeView / CE logos?

And it's going to cost millions to tell people to unplug them? I think the problem is more than just that, or they wouldn't mention it (It would literally be "your fault" and they'd have no obligation to help you). Are we suggesting that 700,000 people just bought some dodgy thing off the local electronics shop, fitted it themselves, and will complain if the government doesn't pay them to take it back down? Because that's what it sounds like.

Or is it that the equipment fitted and approved was always going to cause this problem and OfCom knew that when they sold off those frequencies, but it's not their money so who cares? Wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some long-established contract with the amplifier companies / government scheme fitting companies somewhere, probably written up on a local golf course.

The fact is that OfCom should KNOW that's what happened and tell people not to fit amplifiers and/or regulate the sale of amplifiers to only approved installers to where it didn't matter. That's kind-of their only job.

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Re: Sigh @everyone who replied

The C4 signal from Wenvoe is quite bad, and C4 appears at a different position (FV channel 8 between BBC3 and BBC4?), and not all FV boxes allow you to manually re-number channels.

I'd spotted the rescan myself after I'd posted. I must admit that rescanning is getting depressingly frequent, especially on my older FV boxes that don't do it automatically.

The splitter boxes are intended for multi-occupancy buildings (which I suppose my house is at the moment) and are quite expensive. If it were really that simple, you would not be able to buy 8 port LNBs.

And even if I did become eligible for AT800, and they agreed to fund an intelligent splitter and/or install the wiring, the disruption of laying cables over the whole of the house would be horrible.

I'm just hoping that I will not be affected. Only time will tell.

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Re: @Lee D

So these amplifiers... who approved them for sale, who licensed them, who fitted them, who allowed them to transmit in those frequency ranges? Are they ones that people fitted or that were given to them by the previous government schemes? Do they carry the FreeView / CE logos?

There are as many answers as there are questions. Some of the amplifiers are good quality, some are not. Some are cheap, some are expensive. Some were bought in B&Q and fitted as DIY, some were fitted by CAI professionals. All undoubtedly have a CE mark, since they can't be sold without it, but in these days of self-certification that's not worth the paper its printed on.

They can't all just be unplugged, some are fitted on the tops of masts, some are built-in to the aerials, some are still needed in weak-signal areas.

That's why no-one knows what it wil cost, since no-one knows how widespread the problem may be.

The fact is that OfCom should KNOW that's what happened and tell people not to fit amplifiers and/or regulate the sale of amplifiers to only approved installers to where it didn't matter. That's kind-of their only job.

It's not remotely their job, there is no legal requirement to have your TV installed by a certified installer, although it's perhaps a good idea if you want a professional job. Installers who choose to be are governed by the CAI codes of practice, but government hasn't tried to legislate home entertainment products since the 1950's, it would not be tolerated. Can you imagine the outcry if OfCom required an amplifier licence before you could legally watch digital TV in a weak-signal area? :)

The fact remains that these amplifiers were necessary and fit for the purpose for which they were sold at the time they were sold. OfCom has moved the goalposts, and someone is going to have to pick up the tab for any problems that it might, or might not, cause. We'll just have to wait and see if there is a real problem.

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FAIL

Re: Sigh

"OAPs get their licence paid for by the government. Have done since 2001"

Somewhere maybe but not here in the UK.

OAP

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Boffin

It also prefers to be known as AT800

They are fans of old Intel processors?

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WTF?

<M>

"Ah, come in Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited. Have a seat. Your codename for this mission will be AT800...."

</M>

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Re: What?

> considering that the old analog signals used almost 5x to 10x what they do now!

No, they didn't. The power quoted for transmitters is peak power. The nature of analogue signals is that the peak is rarely reached, and the average power is 5 or 10 times lower than the peak. The digital signals run at peak power all the time, i.e. peak and average are the same.

The average power is exactly the same for digital and analogue, that's why they chose those levels for DTT. It gives the same coverage as analogue.

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Re: What?

The power quoted for transmitters is peak power. The nature of analogue signals is that the peak is rarely reached, and the average power is 5 or 10 times lower than the peak.

Oh dear. The analogue TV signals were FM `as far as I remember - the audio certainly was. As such they were transmitting at maximum power all of the time. If they were AM you would have a point as that varies the amplitude of the signal but they weren't so you're wrong.

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Re: What?

Analogue satellite used to be rather wide FM (some twenty-something MHz bandwidth) but terrestrial was 'vestigial sideband' (AM with one sideband chopped) - only the sound was FM. And there was a NICAM carrier too :)

So the total power did vary, but always had a certain lowest level.

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Re: What?

No, I'm not wrong. The UK used the system I standard. Audio was FM, spaced 6MHz from the video carrier frequency. Video was AM vestigial sideband, +ve for black (the old 405-line system A was +ve for white, so interference showed up as white dots).

Only satellite uses FM for video, it has other issues that make it unsuitable for terrestrial. Most countries in Europe use FM for sound, except French system L which used AM for sound as well as for video.

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FAIL

Re: What?

The analogue video was definitely AM, though the audio was FM as you say. So you're wrong! ;)

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WTF?

"£10,000 per household ensuring they get some sort of free-to-view TV service"

how much!?! per household?!?!?!

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Windows

A household

will be a terrace or block of flats or maisonettes or something similar...

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or alternatively £50 for the new amp/filter, £150 for the man to fit it, £50 for fuel costs and the remainder to the company that administers the scheme .

YLCMV (your level of cynicism may vary)

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Unhappy

£10,000 is a maximum.

Fitting a Freesat dish and replacing all the Freeview boxes could hit a few grand easily - £500 for the dish & fitting, £500 each Freesat box (equivalent spec to the FreeView they just killed)

The worst case will be places they can't fit a dish - national parks, listed buildings etc - and "have" to build scaffold (even if a picker is cheaper and better) to reach the masthead amp/antenna.

That could easily max them out - especially as the scaffold companies now know the budget in advance(!)

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Anonymous Coward

Ever tried reporting a mast fault recently?

Our local mast (a reasonably meaty one supplying a town of 2,000 people + surrounding areas) went on to some kind of reduced power mode about 6 weeks ago. This knocked out COM (that's ITV/C4/C5 et al) reception for anyone with a slightly marginal antenna install (even if it worked faultlessly before)

No-one would admit there was a fault for weeks until the local MP got involved, despite many complaints going in to broadcasters, ofcom et al.

I doubt they'll be in much of a hurry to tidy up any 4G/LTE fallout, but if there's money to be spent...

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Unhappy

C60?????

http://www.ukfree.tv/fullstory.php?storyid=1107052073

Freeview changes to clear the way for 4G broadband in 2013, updated

Some of the dates have changed in the plan to clear C61 and C62 for 4G mobile broadband

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"In most cases that won't be an issue: the leakage from 4G into Freeview will be minimal, but where the viewer is receiving a weak Freeview signal, and using a cheap signal booster, then the effect of boosting both will knock out Freeview reception."

I can't help but wonder what the bleed-over effect will be the other way round. If you live in Crystal Palace, should you expect a 4G dead-spot due to the slightly enormous mast pushing out a subtle 200Kw on each of the 6 local freeview transponders frequencies.

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Anonymous Coward

Only if your 4G equipment has crap out-of-band rejection. Of course, it won't be Apple's fault... :)

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Simples -- get an old Sky box and mini dish

When a Sky account ends the box will go on receiving Freeview channels via a Sky dish. No interference from 4G.

This has proved useful in neighbouring properties where the landlord has removed normal TV coax cables and installed communal Sky dish/wiring, but new tenants are reluctant to pay for Sky channels.

So don't throw away that Sky box when you move house (or actually please do because I find them and extract the hard drives out of the HD and Plus models).

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Re: Simples -- get an old Sky box and mini dish

Or get a Freesat box, does much the same thing as an out of subscription Sky box.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simples -- get an old Sky box and mini dish

So don't throw away that Sky box when you move house (or actually please do because I find them and extract the hard drives out of the HD and Plus models).

Extra free PC storage? why else would you want them?

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Anonymous Coward

Cheap illegal 4G signal boosters here we come.

As far as I'm aware it's illegal to actively amplify mobile network signals uk.....

After 4G @ 800Mhz goes live then does that not mean 'technically' anybody with an old aerial booster is breaking the law?

Maybe the £10,000 quid is to cover all the fines for illegal boosters, what a great way for the Gov. to claw back some of the 1 billion quid it thought it was going to get but didn't.

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Happy

Where angels fear to tread ... ?

"the filter has to go between the ariel and the booster".

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WTF?

Re: Where angels fear to tread ... ?

We seem to have a terminology problem. The word used should be 'aerial', meaning of the air.

But if you called it an antenna then it would be clear what it is...

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Re: Where angels fear to tread ... ?

In the utility room next to the washing powder.

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Had a phone call today

We think you have been mis-sold Freeview TV, please press 5 to talk to one of our leeches.

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MJI
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Joke

4G station and an axe

Now that will keep Freeview operating

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Anonymous Coward

One of the hottest topics being discussed in the industry is the fact that the first filters that have been tested introduce up to 6dB of attenuation to the wanted TV signal. So you will be able to filter 4G but you won't get any TV.

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Anonymous Coward

Ain't no such thing as a brickwall filter

Unfortunately, OFCOM got rid of all the people who knew what they were talking about years ago, so basic laws of physics appear beyond them much of the time.

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Dig

But the you could amplify after the filter bringing back the wanted signal. Lower snr but stands a chance of having the desired affect.

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Ariel?

Would that be the motorbike or the little mermaid?

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Anonymous Coward

Gave up on freeview

Waltham Tx has been a pile of shit for months - in fact since they started work to shift muxs out of the 4G bands.

Its so bad that its impossible to receive any muxs above C49 here (NW Leicester) - antenna installers doing a roaring trade turning the antenna around to face Sutton Coldfield Tx. That however loses all the programmes local to the East Mids (no great loss) and substitutes them with West Mids programming (no great gain).

So I got a Freesat box.

DVB-T rollout in the UK has been (IMHO) a trail of incompetence and dithering. Typical of the UK these days. 15 YEARS to roll it out; pretty much all the early boxes obsolete due to later QAM changes; a DVB-T HD format which nobody else on the planet uses (or intends to use) and now the 4G nonsense.

Total fail.

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Anonymous Coward

Who needs 'live' TV

I gave up on DVB-T and DVB-S about two years ago. I have a shiny 100Mb Cable connection into the house and a one Synology Diskstation that runs sabNZBD and SickBeard.

I use Samsung LED TV's that have DLNA embedded and a MacMini running on my two main TV's that have XMBC running on them.

I now watch better TV when I want, Prime example, there is a new show that has started called Zero Hour (amazing BTW....) and I cant find this listed or penned in for the UK.

If there is anything else I want I would end up getting Love Film or one of the other online PPV systems.

I know this does not work for people like my gran and grandad - but for the techies and young 'uns its a great solution.

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