Speaking at the Westminster eForum event of The Future of Free-to-air TV, Howling said Freeview HD had been a great success and now reached 2.6 million homes. However, decisions being made by the regulator Ofcom would potentially shape the future of broadcasting for the next 30 years.
“There is no substitute for it, getting programmes out from a single point, to a multitude of homes. What’s encouraging the way that Ofcom have written their UHF consultation is that Ofcom get that,” said Howling. “In order for Freeview to go on thriving it is essential to set aside the 600 MHz band. If you lose the 600 MHz band and the 700 MHz band Freeview will be a pale imitation of itself.”
Howling placed importance on the development of DVB-T2, the standard used for HD transmissions, but stopped short of directly calling for a second switchover.
She restated Freeview’s opposition to the government’s plans for filters following the launch of 4G services in the 800 MHz band. While 4G operators will be required to supply filters, the plans do not include the cost of covering their installation.
“Viewers should be entitled to get services they already get now with outputting hands in their pockets. If we don’t address this problem now it will come back again when it comes to White Spaces”, added Charles Constable, managing director, digital platforms, Arqiva. “I don’t think a clear and compelling case has been put for using spectrum in this way, but if it does it will be a requirement for suitable DTT spectrum to be found to maintain existing services and develop technologically.”
Despite the overlapping of stakeholders Howling made no direct mention of YouView.
“It’s also about making great functionality free, with did it with digital, we did it with Freeview Plus and with HD, and now we’re started to do it with connected TV,” she said.
Richard Lindsay-Davies, director-general, Digital TV Group also argued for a careful management of any 4G introduction. “Because digital switchover was fully funded many under estimate the challenges of playing around with UHF spectrum. The carefully managed introduction of this new technology is in the best interests of everyone involved, so we are calling on the stakeholders to manage this process carefully and successfully.”
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport will be using DTG Testing to further investigate the threat of 4G interference.
The DTG is working with members on cloud TV, second screen technology and raised the possibility of ultra high definition services in time for the 2014 World Cup.