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4G clearance retunes: Background

This page has been archived for reference purposes. It was first published in late 2012 as a part of a section about 4G clearance retunes affecting the Freeview / digital terrestrial television service.

Why do viewers need to retune again?

Frequencies associated with UHF channels 63-68 were cleared at digital switchover for future telecommunications use. That was a key part of the digital switchover plan adopted in the mid-00s in the UK. UHF channels 63-68 form part of the 800 MHz frequency band.

Subsequently, an international consensus developed that stated that the whole of the so-called 800 MHz frequency band should be re-used for 4G/LTE mobile broadband services. The whole of the 800 MHz band included UHF channels 61 and 62 was well as the chunk of the UHF band already being cleared. Most countries adopted plans to clear the whole 800 MHz band of TV services in preparation for 4G.

In the UK, that meant plans had to be drawn up to clear UHF channels 61 and 62 as well as UHF channels 63-68. Switchover had already taken place in many parts of the UK  when the decision was made in 2009, and not all of yet-to-occur switchovers could incorporate the changes -  due to the risk of affecting the switchover timescale (as more last minute changes to the transmitters would have to be made).

Therefore numerous post-switchover 4G clearance frequency changes and power boosts (where indicated) are being made, forcing viewers in the affected regions to retune their Freeview equipment in order to continue watching all available TV services in the area.

Is the UK the only country to have to go through these additional retunes?
No. For example, some digital terrestrial television services in Germany have moved frequencies in recent years in order to free frequencies for 4G. In Spain, there are plans for a major change in the way digital terrestrial television is distributed, including a reduction of multiplexes in order to provide room on the former TV frequencies for 4G services. However, countries that were relatively late to go through digital switchover (i.e. after the international decision to clear the whole 800 MHz band was made), such as Ireland, have been able to accommodate the frequency clearance in full.

Will there be further such retunes in the future?
Subject to international discussions in 2015, there may be a further clearance exercise, as more TV frequencies might be given over to mobile data services. Coverage of this is found in the "Future of DTT" section of this website.

Any changes are unlikely to occur before 2018, but viewers should purchase "Freeview HD" certified equipment, as it is likely that services will have to switch to the DVB-T2 standard used by terrestrial HD broadcasts in the UK - Ofcom is considering its options at the moment.