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The company that didn't want today's Freeview HD licence announcement

Objected to Freeview HD multiplex plans
The announcement that the BBC would be launching five new HD channels using extra capacity created for more Freeview HD channels came as a pleasant surprise to many TV fans. But had one mobile phone company got its way, there would be no HD expansion.

Vodafone told Ofcom earlier this year how it completely disagreed with the plans to use currently vacant frequencies for more terrestrial TV services. It submitted a robust response to Ofcom's consultation objecting to the proposal to award a licence to a multiplex operator.

With the top end of the frequency band previously used by TV services now under the control of mobile phone operators for 4G services, Vodafone is now eyeing up the next potential lot of frequencies - the 700 MHz band, still in use by Freeview services. It considers the award of a licence to operate two new multiplexes in the 600 MHz range as obstructing the removal of TV services out of the 700 MHz into the 600 MHz band. Free to air TV could be replaced by internet streaming - at a price for the consumer.

In its submission to Ofcom, Vodafone dismissed the potential on Freeview HD and considered that the interim licence for more Freeview HD channels might be used to deliver "niche channels" with little appeal.

The current plans see the new Freeview HD licences running with a minimum term of 31st December 2018. By then it will be clear how the UK and neighbouring countries would like to proceed with clearing more frequencies for mobile usage. However, Vodafone commented that it thought the frequencies would be needed far sooner than that, pointing to an increase momentum in Europe to clear the 700 MHz band from TV services before 2018. This was acknowledged by Ofcom, who stated that "although such a timetable is possible, we do not currently think it is probable."

As it stands, Ofcom retains the flexibility to amend licences to allow an earlier migration of Freeview channels being booted out of the 700 MHz band prior to the end of 2018, and keeps Vodafone out of the reach of more TV frequencies for another few years.


  1. Vodafone the one to go public - however I sure equal sentiments shared from Telefonica (t/a O2), Three and EE (French Télécom S.A. aka Orange S.A. and Telekom Deutschland GmbH) equally

    The MOD has spectrum up for sale before 700 is needed however the pressure increases outside of Europe where Digital Terrestrial used less and they want or using 700 already!

    1. I could be cruel and say that Vodafone is putting the money it doesn't pay in taxes to fund lobbyists, but would that be below the belt?

      Just to clarify - the German EE stakeholder is "Deutsche Telekom AG".


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