Freeview frequency changes to start July 2017

Freeview channels will begin changing frequencies in July 2017, ahead of a full-scale clearance of services from the 700MHz frequency band by 1st May 2020.

Regulator Ofcom has confirmed that following a consultation earlier this year, it will press ahead with plans to accelerate clearance of the 700MHz frequency band, to enable mobile network operators to launch services on the current Freeview frequencies, accommodating 5G mobile data services.

The plans for acceleration were largely rejected by broadcasters and Freeview multiplex operators. For multiplex operator Arqiva, its temporary multiplexes "COM7" and "COM8", the home of stations including BBC Four HD and Al Jazeera HD, may need to be switched off in 2020. COM7 and 8 will move to temporary frequencies in the 700MHz frequency band while existing high-power Freeview multiplexes on frequencies above 700MHz band will move down into the 600MHz band.

To ensure viewers can continue to receive the range of Freeview channels they can currently receive, there is pressure to convert multiplex capacity used by channels such as Sky News and Spike to the newer DVB-T2 standard by 2020, although Arqiva has previously warned that it would not be ready to do this until the end of 2022.

Some viewers will need to have new aerials installed or repointed at a different transmitter, while a small number will need to be switched-over to cable, broadband or satellite services.

Viewers will be notified of how the changes will affect them closer to the time.

Ofcom has confirmed that it will be working with Irish counterpart ComReg to ensure that viewers in Northern Ireland can still benefit from signal overspill from south of the border, as well as the special NImux, enabling most households to receive RTÄ– and TG4 over the air, as the 700MHz clearance will also affect the Republic of Ireland.

The accelerated plan will require extensive work to take place at a number of key UK transmitter sites in 2017, with a risk that a wet summer could affect what is a tight timetable of engineering work to reconfigure the infrastructure used to transmit Freeview channels to households.

Other neighbouring European countries already have advanced and detailed plans in the public domain as to how their terrestrial TV services will be changing as a result of the internationally co-ordinated frequency clearance. In the Netherlands and Germany, terrestrial TV will switch to an HD-only service using DVB-T2 technology as frequencies are cleared. An official decision to switch Freeview to an all DVB-T2 service has not been made, but would mean users of older Freeview equipment being unable to access terrestrial TV services.

Following an international agreement last year, the remaining Freeview frequencies will be preserved until 2030.

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  1. Great that we get some idea of the switch over schedule. I agree that all broadcasters need to use DVB-T2, / ALL HD service. There is not more space for new services. Let's push forward with this & start now...