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Rebuilding Freeview High Definition from 2019 onwards

There is a bit of a dip in the space available on Freeview HD for high definition channels once 5G mobile services start next year, but the capability will return.

Understanding the capacity on Freeview HD is very lego  Photograph: Shutterstock
Understanding the capacity on Freeview HD is very lego Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

As Freeview High Definition users in Cornwall already know, the number of TV channels being broadcast in the UK will be cut back in mid-2020  to make way for the fifth generation of mobile phone data services.

This is because the number of multiplexes being broadcast will be cut back to the original six.   The extra two were provided as a “interim service”.    A Freeview multiplex is a single broadcast of binary data that occupies a 8MHz frequency range.    In the UK each of these can carry 24.1, 27.1 or 40.2Mbps or of data.

Because older TV sets and set-top boxes can only work with 24.1 Mbps, it is only possible for the owners of the multiplexes to use the higher capacity modes when every home has switched to Freeview HD capable equipment.  This equipment is marked with “DVB-T2”.

As illustrated, the total bitrate (in a home that can receive all the multiplexes) will change over time.

Meet the multiplexes

Not all the multiplexes are the same:

  • only three are broadcast to the whole of the UK;
  • a different three are broadcast in the better DVB-T2 mode;
  • legally, only BBC channels may appear on BBCA
  • also, legally, only public service broadcast channels (ITV, C4, C5) can appear on D3&4
  • The HD mode multiplexes have more bits and use a more video efficient encoding system (MPEG-4)
  • The current license to broadcast have different end-dates

This can be summaries in this table.

Multiplex name

 

Expires

 

HD mode?

Coverage

Mode

Bitrate today

com7

 

21 June 2020

 

Yes

76%

6

40.2

com8

 

21 June 2020

 

Yes

76%

6

40.2

D3&4

 

15 November 2022

 

No

100%

3

24.1

ARQA

 

15 November 2026

 

No

90%

8

27.1

ARQB

 

15 November 2026

 

No

90%

8

27.1

SDN

 

15 November 2026

 

No

90%

8

27.1

BBCB

 

16 November 2026

 

Yes

100%

6

40.2

BBCA

 

31 December 2027

 

No

100%

3

24.1

Freeview requires about 2.2Mbps for a standard definition channels and three times that for a high definition one (6.7Mbps). 

 

The Freeview HD EPG problem

One problem for people with Freeview HD receivers will note is that HD channels are grouped together in the program guide, rather than appear as replacements for the standard definition channels as viewers expect.    This is because the six channels on the BBCB multiplex (BBC One, BBC Two, CBBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) can only be seen on newer boxes, making channel number replacement impossible without breaking the oldest Freeview equipment.

Basically the UK-wide BBCA and D3&4 multiplexes can’t change mode until ALL homes can receive them.

 

 

The interim position

There is good news, however, for the SDN, ARQA and ARQB multiplexes.    They can switch modes to the high definition whenever they feel that it is commercially practical.   This might be at a lower level of Freeview HD box use, perhaps 80% or 90%.   

By switching to DVB-T2 mode, each of them can increase their capacity from 27.1 to 40.2Mbps and take advantage of MPEG4. 

So, of the 80Mbps lost when com7 and com8 close, half of that can be got back by SDN, ARQA and ARQB upgrading, which would be enough for an extra 6 full HD services.

 

 

The HD public service channels

This diagram explains what will happen to create space six more Freeview HD channels.

The gains for the BBC when everyone has a DVB-T2 receiver are larger.     It will:

  • No longer need half of the capacity on the BBCB multiplex (20.1Mbps) as it can move these channels to BBCA
  • Gain 16.1 Mbps on BBCA due to the mode change;
  • Gain 6.6 Mbps from not simulcasting three services in SD and HD
  • Use the “gained 22.1Mbps” Be able to supply all the BBC television channels in HD to all UK homes

For the D3&4 multiplex, the gains are similar:

  • No longer need the 20.1Mbps on BBCB, making it available for other UK-wide services.
  • Gain 16.1 Mbps on D3&4 due to the mode change;
  • Gain 6.6 Mbps from not simulcasting three services in SD and HD
  • Be able to broadcast ITV, C4 and C5 in HD to all UK homes

 

I hope that's as clear as possible!  Any qestions? 



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Comments
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
S
S bevan
10:07 AM

I'm 77 and have to pay for tv licence !!! I live in Pencader and get 9 channels . Free view doesn't happen here. Is it worth ?154 are we ever likely to get more?

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S bevan's 1 post GB
R
R Green
1:56 PM

Guide Plus+ PanasonicTV - TxL37E30B.

I have an issue with slow download and limited information on Guide Plus+. Only current and next programs are shown - with slow download - which is obviously inconvenient and frustrating for planning viewing.
This issue seems to have started about 21st Nov 2020. Prior to that some minor download speed was apparent, but full 7/8 day program data was available.
There is much chatter about this on the net, some of which suggests the problem originates with the broadcaster and linked (probably) to Freeview channel changes and/or data transmission changes, and some suggest it is a Panasonic problem. I have my doubts that it is a Panasonic problem since my DVB recorder - also Guide Plus+ - has no problems.

The signal strength of most channels on my receiver is excellent - I live about 10 miles south, and in view of the transmitter.

Could you comment please. Is there a related problem with transmission changes linked to Freeview updates. and will it be resolved in the future (not to distant I hope)?

Thank you for your support.

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R Green's 4 posts GB
Thursday, 27 August 2020
C
Chris.SE
sentiment_satisfiedGold

5:38 AM

S bevan:

If you are receiving Freeview signals you should be able to get 20 channels in SD, and if your receiver has a T2/HD tuner, then 6 channels in HD and 2 more in SD. If you have only 9, something might not be tuned correctly.

BUT exactly how many you should get does depend on location and a full postcode is needed to look at the predicted reception at your location.
Which channels are you curently getting?

Does your TV have an in-built satellite tuner? If so then all you'd need is the Dish, LNB & the cable to get Freesat if you don't have an obstructed view to 28 degrees E.

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Chris.SE's 1,767 posts GB
C
Chris.SE
sentiment_satisfiedGold

5:42 AM

R Green:

I'll reply to your post on the Sutton Coldfield transmitter page.

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Chris.SE's 1,767 posts GB
Sunday, 20 September 2020
D
Dave Bell
6:53 PM

Hello,

I am not receiving CH55 746.00 MHz. I have read that this service is used and is working fine from Winter Hill, then I read this service COM7 is no longer used because of the '700 Mhz and 5G'.
I can no longer receive BBC news HD, BB4 HD etc
Any advise ?

Thanks Dave

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Dave Bell's 1 post GB
Tuesday, 22 September 2020
C
Chris.SE
sentiment_satisfiedGold

12:47 AM

Dave Bell:

Where did you read "COM7 is no longer used because of the '700 Mhz and 5G'." ?
That information is incorrect.

As per my post on here page 14 on the 28th June, see https://ukfree.tv/article/1107052554/Rebuilding_Freeview_High_Definition_from_2019_onwa/PGSTART130/irt922572#b922572
COM7 is operational and working at Winter Hill and the other 24 main transmitters that transmit COM7 (subject to any listed Planned Engineering).

As you've mentioned Winter Hill I assume your normal reception is Winter Hill, if not please provide a full postcode.

Any current loss of reception is most likely to be "Tropospheric Ducting" around causing interference, see https://www.radioandtvhelp.co.uk/help-guides/television/effect-of-tropospheric-ducting-on-freeview for a simplistic explanation. It can be quite variable, come and go within seconds, minutes or hours. It has been particularly strong recently which can as you've discovered wipe out your reception. Climate change is likely to mean these sort of events could be more common.
Currently it may continue on and off for a day or two more.



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