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Should the UK close down the TV networks to allow for more mobile broadband?

Ofcom is wondering if Freeview is needed in the future, or can we close down the massively popular service to provide more 4G broadband. Freeview occupies 256MHz today, whilst mobile phone services have 560MHz. Digital UK has a report that suggests Freeview is good for the UK.

I am not sure if I want more mobile broadband or want to keep Freeview.  Photograph: Shutterstock
I am not sure if I want more mobile broadband or want to keep Freeview. Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

From the Digital UK Press Office today:

A new report published today reveals the major economic benefits that Freeview and other terrestrial TV services deliver to the UK.

The report shows that the country's most widely used platform returns nearly £80bn to the economy and challenges the view that mobile broadband delivers more value from airwaves than television.

The findings come at the start of a year when crucial decisions about the future of free-to-air TV will be made by policy makers in the UK and EU. Just over a year after digital switchover freed up capacity for 4G mobile broadband, a further shake-up of the airwaves is being considered to release more spectrum for the mobile market.

Commissioned by Digital UK, the report by media and telecoms consultancy Communications Chambers sets out for the first time the economic and social importance of digital terrestrial television (DTT) which delivers broadcast channels for both Freeview and YouView - and is watched in three-quarters of UK homes.

Headlines from the report include:

  • Evidence of DTT's vital role in supporting UK broadcasting, driving innovation and investment in programme-making while keeping consumer costs down
  • DTT provides nearly £80bn* to the UK - significantly more than previously estimated - and supports 15,000 jobs in broadcasting and independent production
  • New economic analysis showing that DTT delivers more value per unit of spectrum than mobile broadband (see notes)

As the largest free-to-air TV service, DTT creates healthy competition between platforms and ensures viewers can access public service channels without subscription Digital UK and its members (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva) are urging government to ensure any further transfers of airwaves do not weaken Freeview and other terrestrial TV services, and that viewers should not suffer disruption or foot the bill for making the changes. In a joint letter accompanying the report, Tony Hall, BBC Director General, Adam Crozier, CEO of ITV, David Abraham, Channel 4 CEO and John Cresswell, CEO of Arqiva, stress the importance of terrestrial services such as Freeview in ensuring the UK remains a world leader in television.

Jonathan Thompson, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said: "This report sheds new light on the value of DTT for viewers, the UK television sector and wider economy. With increasing demand for spectrum it is critical that DTT remains a strong proposition with the same coverage and range of channels viewers enjoy today."

Copies of the report can be downloaded from The Value of Digital Terrestrial Television in an era of increasing demand for spectrum [PDF].


*£79.8bn, calculated on the basis of ten year "net present value" (NPV)

New economic analysis: The report estimates that the average value per MHz of spectrum for DTT is 50% higher than that for mobile data and that the marginal value (the unit value that might realistically be reallocated between DTT and mobile) may be even greater. The report estimates the marginal value of mobile data per MHz of spectrum to be £0.19bn compared to £0.47bn for DTT.

Help with Freeview, aerials?
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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
John Martin

3:11 PM

Leave freeview alone please. All these brats and their phones have enough space. Never satisfied are they?

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag
Saturday, 29 November 2014
11:50 PM

29 November 2014 and my free view is unwatchable what is wrong with the crystal palace transmitter.

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Strong's 1 post GB flag
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Rog Parsons

4:29 PM

I'm with John Martin on this , haven't the TV viewing public had enough of the greed of certain executives in the telecomms world . We are forced to pay £145.50 a year - or a fine of £1000 - 24 hour TV promised in the 1990s has turned out to be sell-o-vision . Sky and Virgin are [too] expensive so many rely on Freeview and in some areas the signal is poor anyway. No, shuv your added services to 'phones (remember when we used 'em for spoken conversations - happy days.....) .

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Rog Parsons's 38 posts GB flag
john Martin
4:45 PM

Can you remember when people actually use to talk to each other in the pub?? I was in the local the other night there was 4 young people to left of me and 5 to the right. Eight of them were on the mobile all the time I was there. The other lad spoke to us more than his friends question mark. Sorry they did speak to him. It was his round next. Oh for the good old days when it was a cig in one hand and a drink in the other LOL.

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john Martin's 6 posts GB flag
Thursday, 18 December 2014
8:31 PM

It makes logical sense to shut down terrestrial TV services in the UK and devote that bandwidth to mobile broadband / cellular service.
It would be far easier to just mail out a replacement "freeview" box that is able to stream content from a dedicated IP address (looking & feeling the same as the Freeview that we're using now). for those still using freeview than it is to keep trying to play around with the towers, frequencies and the signals to accommodate both TV & other wireless services every 6 months as seems to be the case now.
Sometimes it just makes logical sense to leave the past in the past than it does to try to force the future to accommodate the past.
Put another way, Horse & buggies are not allowed on the Motorway and the whole nation works 1000x faster because of it.

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Steve's 9 posts GB flag
8:59 PM

we need freeview leave it a lone
phones have a enough space

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Grahammontgomery's 1 post GB flag

9:14 PM

Steve: It might make 'logical sense' to you, but its a mother and father of a economic, technical and political problem for everyone else.

Only 5% of viewing at present is done via streaming. And the challenges of trying to have enough bandwidth for everyone (even if they could all be connected - a doubtful prospect) is a long way off, and thats before you think about 4K. Google 'net neutrality' and see what the ramifications might be if internet providers were able to chose what speed you get for particular services.

And think of reliability. My Virgin fibre cabinet is right across the road from me, and I'm in the middle of a town. Even so, the server does go down sometimes. My TV signal has never stopped.

And who is going to pay for this 'box'? And what if you want more? Is there going to be a software and hardware standard, and what happens to all the equipment we already have?

In reality, retunes are fairly rare, and most devices do it automatically anyway. Even where it is a problem, its generally not that difficult to solve.

Its one of those ideas which sound great in theory, but is vastly more complex and expensive in practice than it first appears. Horses are allowed on roads, but what replaced the horse was a new technology which became steadily cheaper and had (at least when it first appeared) fewer downsides….pdf

However, the net still has a way to go before it can deliver all our viewing, with capacity and coverage both not yet close to universal.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

9:40 PM


I concur with MikeB. Having lived for many years in a rural area with initially a dial-up service that was supposed to run at 56kbps we actually got 32 kbps at best. That slowness is a very common experience for those not close to their telephone exchange so that affect not just rural area but also urban and suburban afreas as well. Even now that location does not get a reliable 2 Mbps, which is the Government's aim though it falls way short of what is needed to stream even a single SD channel without constant buffering!

The capacity of the internet to supply the massive volume of data needed for a 'universal' provision of TV entertainment is way beyond that which currently exists anywhere in the country except perhaps for those live next door to the exchange. Even FTTP (or sometimes called FTTH) is dependent on the ability of the internet 'backbone' to provide enough data throughput to meet the demands of all users worldwide, not just in the UK. Add to that the limitation of the servers that the internet relies upon as they cannot priovide all the data demanded all the time and often slow down the delivery of some data.

To supply a universal TV service via IP will require a massive investment way beyond that being spent on providing the current range of fibre-based services. The costs and practicalities make it highly unlikely to ever happen unless some new form of distribution and server technology is invented/discovered that has thousands of times the carrying capacity of the optical fibre currently being used and the equipment driving it.

Universal TV via IP is a very long way off, if at all. I'm talking decades not years.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
steve p

4:26 PM

I think shutting Freeview is like shutting FM Radio. A madness which will eventually be dropped.

Incidentally does anyone else think

<< If you are rude or disrespectful all of your posts will be deleted and you will be banned. >> IN BOLD

is an unnecessarily aggressive caution? Not exactly polite or respectful itself?

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steve p's 1,173 posts GB flag

9:37 PM

Steve P

I agree that they should not close terrestrial TV broadcasting for many reasons. Not least of which is that not everyone wants to have internet access, the internet cannot cope with current demands very well and carrying TV services will make that worse, many people who are not technically comfortable don't see why they will be forced to change, analogue TV and radio worked very well - and MW and FM still do.

You second point I disagree with. There is no call for anyone to be rude or abusive on a technical forum. Those of us who contribute using our knowledge to try to assist others having difficulties with their TV reception are doing it as we want to help. Being rude to us or making unwarranted remarks about any person is not acceptable to most people. So I think the warning is justified, particularly as some people have been particularly rude to people who know what they are talking about.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag
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