Frequency Clearances: What does it mean for you and your Freeview reception?

The frequencies used to transmit Freeview to your aerial are being reduced. Already frequencies are being taken out of action for TV use, so that they can be used for "800MHz" 4G mobile services from 2013. 

Following a statement by Ofcom last week, it has been confirmed that once the current schedule of 4G clearance retunes has completed in the UK next year, the TV network will need to be replanned, and if Ofcom gets suitable international clearance in 2015, a new, second schedule of clearance retunes will need to be conducted from 2018.

At that point even more frequencies will be removed from use by TV companies, and some viewers will need another set of filters and up to 30% of households will need a new aerial, according to an Arqiva study.

Clearance Retunes
partial clearance (incorporated at digital switchover)
First clearance (4G/full 800MHz)
2018- ???
Second clearance (possible “5G”/700 MHz) – subject to international co-ordination.

Will it affect the number of channels I can watch on Freeview?
Supposing you are still able to get good Freeview reception once 4G services come on air, the number of channels available should not fall, at least not until the second clearance starts in 2018 at the earliest. In the meantime, Ofcom is proposing to licence up to two interim multiplexes for HD to use a portion of the frequency band that is going to otherwise be dormant until 2018. This could mean up to 10 more HD channels on Freeview for 63% of the population, served by the biggest transmitter sites in the UK. The move is designed to increase uptake of Freeview HD receivers.

After 2018, depending on how Ofcom's proposals pan out, some viewers may receive a reduced service, while in other areas the full service will remain available. Until Ofcom outlines its plans in detail, a definitive answer cannot be given.

Between now and then, more services are likely to be delivered online, benefiting hybrid services such as YouView which combine Freeview channels with internet channels.

Where will the new HD channels be available? Am I in the 63%?
That information has not yet been provided. However, the second mast at Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham has been kept on after switchover to accommodate such services. A similar situation exists at Tacolneston in Norfolk.  Locations such as North West England, London and the Scottish Central Belt look certain to be in the coverage area.

Will I need a new aerial?
Viewers especially in the North West of England, the Bristol area, South Devon/Torbay, Tyneside, the East Midlands, parts of Sussex, SE Kent, Scottish Borders and Norfolk are more likely to need a new aerial. That's because TV services in these areas have used and continue to use frequencies in the bands being cleared.

Households may have a so-called "Group C/D" aerial, which is designed to receive services at the top of the UHF band where these TV services are found. Viewers with these aerials will need to have a replacement aerial designed to receive services on lower frequencies when the second clearance happens and TV services move down the frequency band. From 2018, it appears that a "Group K" aerial will be the best to use.

In some locations, some digital services have already appeared "out of group", and some viewers may have had a wideband aerial installed to receive all channels. Generally, older aerials are more likely to be a "grouped" aerial. Most DIY shop aerials are wideband.

In addition, new Freeview HD services proposed to be broadcast in the 600 MHz band may entice viewers to get a wideband aerial themselves to receive the extra channels, thus reducing the number of households that will need to change their aerial when the second clearance happens. is not responsible for the availability and content of external sites.

Does this mean I've got to retune every five minutes for the foreseeable future?
Retunes will continue to be neccessary. But modern Freeview HD receivers retune themselves. It's another reason why broadcasters want to add more HD channels, so that more of us will go out and get self tuning Freeview HD equipment. It reduces the need for support when a retune event happens.

Will the mobile services interfere with my TV reception?
There are concerns that the 800 MHz 4G service will affect reception for some viewers, especially those within 2km of the mobile base station. Ofcom has produced statistics as to how many households will be affected, indicating they know where base stations will be. has not yet found publicly available information on this topic. If you use a booster / amplifier or if your local TV transmitter uses frequencies that are close to the 4G frequencies, you are more likely to be affected. Some radio enthusiasts point to other issues, including "harmonics" and "receiver front end overload". Therefore, you may need a filter. Affected households are due to receive one free filter per household. This filter will be provided by an organisation set up by the mobile phone companies to mitigate interference.

When the second clearance during or after 2018 comes around, it is quite possible that the filter received in 2013 will need to be replaced with a newer filter that blocks more of the old TV frequency band.

Some of the trouble arises from the fact that 4G and possible new "5G" services in the future will use former TV frequencies, and TVs, boosters and aerials that were quite rightly, and legally designed to receive the full frequency band will now be susceptible to receiving the interfering signal without the filter.

  More on the proposed 700 MHz clearance from 2018: Coverage front page.
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