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Freeview signals: too much of a good thing is bad for you

If you have a high-gain aerial or use signal amplifiers, it is quite common to find that the high-power digital signals provided after switchover will overload your Freeview equipment - and can appear to be "weak signals".

If you have a high-gain aerial or use signal amplifiers, it is
published on UK Free TV

Most people will experience nothing but simplicity and joy with the digital switchover - the process that turns off the old five high power analogue signals, and the existing six low power digital services and replaces them with six new high power Freeview multiplexes.

For those with problems, there are generally three issues.

Eliminating other possible problems first

The first is that very, very old equipment will not function with the digital signals split into 6,817 sub-signals, as it was only designed to work with 1,705 sub-signals. This is known as the "8k mode issue" - see TVs and boxes that do not support the 8k

It is also common that people do not clear out the old channel list (by selecting "first time installation" retune, "Factory Reset" or "Shipping Condition") before doing an "autoscan" for the available broadcast frequencies, and this results in everything from missing channels to no subtitles, programme guide, wrong channel numbers and no text services. If you can't find how to do it see either Freeview Retune - list of manuals or do it this way: My Freeview box has no EPG, is blank, has no sound or the channel line up is wrong .

A third problem is caused by having signals from more than one transmitter - see Digital Region Overlap.

The final very common issue is "too much signal".

Transmitters have much more digital power after switchover

At most transmitters, the digital signals after switchover are considerably more powerful than before. This was because when the analogue and digital services ran together, the digital services were kept low to prevent appearing as snowy interference on television sets using analogue reception.

Here is an example, from Sutton Coldfield, of how the signals change at switchover:

4,000kW of analogue signals are turned off, and the digital services increase in total power from 48kW to 1,200kW - that is an increase of 25 times in numerical terms, also know as +14dB. (The reduction of -7dB from the analogue strength is intended - the digital services require less power to cover the same number of homes).

This large increase in power should cause no effect for most people. A stronger signal does not increase the picture quality (you need Freeview HD for that), sound levels - the only effect should be that more homes that are further away from the transmitter mast can receive a stable digital signal.

High gain aerials and signal boosters

However, many people have been tempted into buying one both high gain aerials and signal boosters.

High-gain aerials were very suitable for places where the Freeview signal before switchover was very weak indeed, but if you have one of these and you are located closer to the transmitter, you will probably now have a signal overload.

Generally speaking, signal booster devices are never really much use for Freeview reception, and much of the time they actually amplify the interference more than they do the signal, causing reception to get worse, not better.

How to tell if you have too much signal

There are almost as many ways for a Freeview box to display the "signal strength" and "signal quality" as there are types of Freeview box. Here are some of them:

Speaking generally, there will be two indicators:

One is signal strength - this shows the power level of the signal entering the Freeview box. Often "0" is the lowest and "10" the highest, but sometimes it can be a percentage, sometimes coloured boxes and so on.

The signal strength should be around 75% - more than this indicates too much signal.

The other measure is the signal quality and this is much more important to high-quality Freeview viewing. Any measures that increase this to the maximum will provide for uninterrupted viewing, lower values will result in "bit errors" that cause the picture to freeze and the sound to mute out.

One problem with over powerful signals is the overload can sometimes show as a low signal because the receiver circuitry will enter a "blown fuse" state to protect itself.

How to deal with too much signal

First, if you have a booster or amplifier - remove it from your system. Don't just unplug the power, as this will result in no signal getting though the device.

If you can't just disconnect the output cable and connect it to the input cable, you might need a coax female-female coupler to connect two male connectors together.

If you don't have a booster or amplifier, you might have to fit an attenuator onto the cable. They come in two types, either a "single attenuator", around five pounds, or a variable attenuator, for around ten pounds. The variable sort has a knob that can be turned to select the required level of signal dampening.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2020

9:35 AM

Andy Mullins:

You may be in a location where you can receive more than one transmitter. Is that signal strength figure the same for each of the UHF channels the box is tuned to? If so, post back with a full postcode so we can see which transmitters you might be receiving.

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Chris.SE's 4,181 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
4:46 PM

i can only get channels 34 and and 72 on multiplex com7. i dont know about other channels. i was trying to watch freesports. i have tried winter hill horizontal and storton vertical. and retuned ofcourse, help.

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graham's 2 posts GB flag

4:53 PM


I gave a dull and detailed response to your post on the 20th December on the 700MHz Clearance thread.
See Freeview 700MHz clearance (retune) dates | free and easy

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Chris.SE's 4,181 posts GB flag

4:55 PM

That should have said "full and detailed response" even though it could well be dull :D

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Chris.SE's 4,181 posts GB flag
Sunday, 8 January 2023
Rodney Deacon
9:34 AM

well i made an effort to retune yesterday. prog 27 on one of my aerials it ipixalates sometimes. One aerial
is horisontaly polarised and points at Mendip transmitter the other verticaly polarised and points at Kingsweston Down transmitter.
maybe one signal is too strong,. too week and needs an attenuator or amplifier?
What size Db should I use?
I have not looked at signal strengths yet I should do that.

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Rodney Deacon's 1 post GB flag

2:05 PM

Rodney Deacon:

Hi Rodney. Just to be clear, do you mean the Yesterday TV channel at LCN27 in your EPG or a multiplex UHF channel? I'm guessing your mean the TV channel.

Yes you need to look in the TV Tuning section for Signal Strength and Quality (or Error/BER) figures for each multiplexes' UHF channel.
Check for each transmitter, write them down and then post the figures against each UHF channel. We can't judge whether it's too strong or weak without that.
A full postcode would be helpful to look at your predicted reception (can't check on partial postcodes - but I'm guessing you may be somewhere in BS10 or highish up in BS7).

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Chris.SE's 4,181 posts GB flag
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