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When will I get a new Freeview aerial because of even more mobile broadband?

What is going to happen during the 700MHz clearance? To make way for more mobile broadband in 2020, millions of Freeview viewers are going to need to act. A very few will need a new aerial. Will that be you?

The ever-growing demand for mobile internet   Photograph: Public domain
The ever-growing demand for mobile internet Photograph: Public domain
published on UK Free TV

What is 700MHz clearance?

Back in 2012, the UK completed the switch to digital-only TV to provide greater viewing choice, high definition channels, improved reliability and better picture quality.

Digital TV makes much more efficient use of the UHF broadcast frequencies. This has meant that nine old frequencies used by TV (C61 to C69) could be sold to Three, EE, Vodafone and O2 for use by mobile phones to access the internet at higher speeds than before. 

 

The ever-growing demand for mobile internet - that works reliably when traveling, inside shops and offices - means that Freeview will need to vacate more broadcast channels (C49 to C60) in about four years’ time.    

This can be done without reducing the available TV and radio channels, but it will mean retunes for all Freeview viewers – and new TV aerials for about 10% of homes in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Somerset, Bristol, County Durham, Oxfordshire, Dundee, Dover, Carmarthenshire, West Sussex, North Devon, the Scottish Borders and the north of Northern Ireland.   These new aerials will be provided and fitted for free. 

 

Locations where new aerials might be needed

 

Things that we know

We know that Ofcom and the government are committed to allocating the former TV broadcast frequencies in the 700MHz band to mobile broadband from 30 June 2020:

  • The date for the start of use for 694 MHz and 790 MHz for mobile broadband in the Pan-European frequency allocation area is 30 June 2020.
  • There is insufficient capacity for the interim multiplexes to continue past 30 June 2020 and they will close on or before this date;
  • The interim multiplexes will shift to using Single Frequency Network (SFN) on two “700MHz” frequencies – probably channel C51 and C56 at some point between now and 2020.  This will be the “first clearance event” and cause some homes to change aerial groups.
  • At some point each of the transmitters using the “700MHz” channels – that’s C49 to C60 – will need to find the homes without wideband aerials and have them fitted.  There may be a large number to deal with in Manchester and Oxfordshire.
  • C38, which is currently allocated to PMSE – which is mainly “stage” radio microphones and short-distance video outside broadcast links – will need to be used for Freeview.  Due to the nature of the industry, this channel may not come available to Freeview until 2020.  This might mean a final “clearance event” on this date.
  • Once the mobile broadband services start, homes using C47 and C48 for Freeview in weak Freeview signal areas with masthead amplifiers will need to be dealt with (like “at800”), starting in July 2020. 
  • The 700MHz band consists of twelve UHF channel numbers, but there are only seven in the 600MHz band, and one used for PMSE. This means that the mapping of frequencies won’t be a simple matter as there will be four less classical Freeview allocations for the same service.   

 

How are the current Freeview broadcast frequencies used?

Current multiplex usages

 

The interim multiplexes will shift to using Single Frequency Network (SFN)

This is going to be an issue for homes in some transmitter areas that watching the “extra” Freeview HD channels on the two temporary multiplexes called com7 and com8 – which shows these Freeview channels:

57 VIVA, 67 CBS Reality +1, 71 CBS Drama, 78 5USA +1, 81 Talking Pictures TV, 86 Vintage TV, 87 Keep It Country, 106 BBC Four HD, 107 BBC News HD, 108 Al Jazeera English HD, 109 Channel 4+1 HD, 110 4seven HD, 113 RT HD, 124 CBeebies HD, 134 Al Jazeera Arabic, 77 Rishtey Europe, 245 Keep It Country TV 111 QVC +1 HD, 112 QVC Beauty HD

...and are using a “group A aerial”.   Most homes have long-since switched to using a wideband aerial, but if you haven’t and live in these places you might not be able to watch the above channels after com7 and com8 change frequencies:

Greater London, Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Hampshire coast, North Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire, eastern Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Fife, Herefordshire, East Ayrshire, South Yorkshire, Newcastle and Stoke-on-Trent.

 

 

Program-Making and Special Events - PMSE

If you run a professional performance venue (for concerts or theater) or make TV (live or recorded) shows you will probably make use of radio microphones or short-distance links for audiovisual.     Before 2012 you will have been using “C69” for these, and had to have the equipment changed to C48.

Because Freeview is going to work with twelve less broadcasting channels from 2020, it will be necessary to use C48 for Freeview.     Also many TV studios (say, Sky News) also make use of unused Freeview channels for radio microphones and they simply won’t be able to find unused channels from mid-2020.

Ofcom has provided PMSE new frequencies away from the old TV ones, but this will mean another equipment upgrade as well as using digital technology to make better use of the new band.

 

Where the new 4G services overload Freeview homes

Since the start of the previous 4G services, a very small number of Freeview viewers have had to fit “filters” or have had their rooftop aerial amplifier removed.    This was done by “at800” who provided any home with the necessary equipment for free. 

The same scheme will be run for those people now in the top band, which is about 1% of Freeview homes, which will then run from July 2020 onwards, presumably as “at700”.

 

What is the schedule for these changes?

There are several good reason for leaving the changes until as late as possible: newer Freeview equipment is able to re-tune when network changes happen, and it will take time to locate the actual aerials that will need replacing.

The first event will need be a “national retune” for Freeview HD users and those places using C51 (Emley Moor, Dover, Sandy Heath, Redruth, Beacon Hill and others) and C56 (Mendip, Sudbury, Waltham, Huntshaw Cross) effected by the movement of com7 and com8 to a national SFN.

The 2009-2012 digital switchover process suggests that rest of the process will be done on a region-by-region basis.    This time it might be....

Scottish Borders, South West, Northern Ireland, South, Wales, South East, East Scotland, South (Oxford), North East and Cumbria, West and then North West

No changes will be needed at Cambridge, Channel Islands, East, East Midlands, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, London, the rest of Scotland, West Midlands and Yorkshire.

 

Further reading

 

 



Help with TV/radio stations?
Can I receive British Eurosport for free?1
What has happened to TCM?2
How do I receive all of uktv+ channels (gold, style, food etc) using my Freeview3
Can I watch for free Financial channels such as CNBC or Bloomberg?4
Is sky|one going on Freeview?5
In this section
Do not forget that 4G starting soon in 20 cities and towns really soon1
Using UHF channels C61 to C69? Time to retune2
Two final Freeview retunes in Scotland on 24 and 31 July 20133
800MHz band cleared by Digital UK - ready for nationwide 4G use4
Expecting 4G interference? Tests now show that you have a one in 300 chance5
5th June 2013 retunes for Devon and Cornwall6

Comments
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
M
moriety
3:40 AM

For David Brigden:

I live about two miles from the Crystal Palace mast and can almost never get any HD programmes, and as I live on lower ground but far enough away shouldn't constitute a problem given the distance.

A radio engineer might better explain the problem, but those under a transmitter suffer the same poor service as those folk in remote area's do (if the antiquated 1950's system remains the same whilst loading it up with evernew technology and government ignoring the fact the the entire system needs an overhaul)


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