UK consumers could be forced to switch to another means of receiving digital television in order to allow the smooth introduction of 4G telephony services.
In proposals released by Ofcom, designed to ensure that digital TV delivered through a rooftop aerial can continue to function once 800MHz spectrum is made available in 2013, the regulator sets out a number of scenarios.
Because 800MHz spectrum sits adjacent to the frequencies used for digital terrestrial television an estimated 3% of DTT viewers could potentially lose reception if no measures are put in place.
The spectrum release is in line with European policy to harmonise the use of spectrum. It is needed to cope with increased demands on broadband services driven by the rise of devices including smart phones and tablets.
Ofcom says that in most cases the fitting of a filter to block interference to the TV will be sufficient, but admits in a “very small number of cases” it will be necessary for viewers to change platforms altogether.
Last year an Ofcom commissioned report into the possibility of interference from LTE handsets to DVB-T receivers concluded the installation of high quality filters and aerial flyleads can resolve the majority of issues.
“Ofcom’s role is to ensure that mobile services can be used effectively in the 800 MHz band and at the same time enable DTT broadcasting to function properly,” said the regulator, promising a further consultation on the issue in the autumn.
It says the average cost of a platform change – moving the consumer to either satellite or cable – will be £350 per household. The licensee will be expected to meet any costs incurred. Extreme measures, where no satellite or cable reception is available, includes the installation of new DTT relays and further restrictions on the licence holders. About 30,000 households (0.1%) could lose one or more multiplexes.
Ofcom plans to auction the 800MHz spectrum next March.
The current consultation closes on August 11 and can be downloaded from the Ofcom website