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Proposals to reduce frequencies for Freeview outlined

Ofcom has outlined proposals which would see some Freeview channels change frequency from 2019, as more frequencies are cleared for mobile broadband use from around 2022.

The proposals state that from 2022, or possibly slightly earlier, a chunk of frequencies known as the 700 MHz band, would be made available to mobile network operators to cope with an anticipated rise in data traffic on mobile networks.

It will be the second batch of TV frequencies to be surrendered to mobile network operators, but the plans see the changes occurring later and in a way that secures current coverage to a greater extent in contrast to earlier proposals.

With countries including France and Sweden planning to use more TV frequencies for mobile broadband, Ofcom is expecting a possible international agreement next year that would allow the 700 MHz band to be converted for mobile network usage across Europe and beyond, bringing us in line with the Americas and Asia-Pacific region.

Thanks to Freeview's popularity, and the use of Freeview channels as part of the YouView service, which has resulted in the majority of households using Freeview on at least one TV set in their household, Ofcom has proposed a way in which services could be moved without adversely affecting reception or choice of channels.

It states that only 0.5% of households would need to change their aerials as a result of the plans, down from earlier estimates following new research that indicates by 2022, 80% of aerials used for TV will be 'wideband' aerials, able to receive services across the whole range of TV frequencies.

According to the plans, the six main digital multiplexes transmitting the Freeview service, plus the local TV multiplex and the multiplex carrying Irish channels in Northern Ireland, would continue and have roughly the same coverage as now.

While some services would change frequency, those services that don't broadcast on the affected frequencies would stay put, meaning that viewers in most of London, for example, would be unaffected.

Services using frequencies that are proposed to be converted for mobile broadband use (including the local TV multiplex in many locations), would move down the frequency band. The changes would commence in 2019, triggering a retune for householders in the affected areas.
..of households expected to need a new aerial
..of households expected to have a Freeview HD (DVB-T2) compatible TV by 2022
..of households will have a wideband aerial for receiving Freeview by 2022.
Source: Ofcom

Interim multiplex "COM7", which broadcasts channels such as BBC Four HD would be closed down as part of the transmitter-by-transmitter reconfiguration of the service takes place. Ofcom suggests as part of the proposals that the existing Freeview HD multiplex would by then be able to accommodate up to 8 HD channels as a result of encoder improvements, enabling the BBC to boost Freeview coverage of channels including BBC News HD.

Plans to change the broadcast standard of the Freeview standard definition TV service to DVB-T2 - the standard used for Freeview HD channel are treated conservatively by Ofcom - it points out that by 2022, 80% of primary TV sets are expected to be DVB-T2 compatible, leaving some viewers without a TV service if a full scale migration takes place. Ofcom has called on broadcasters to have their say on the plans, including whether or not a migration to DVB-T2 should take place and how they envisage the future of terrestrial TV.

Ofcom has requested responses to the proposals, particularly from broadcasters and telecom companies, by the end of August. 

See also:
The Shrinking TV Frequency Band
How use of the UHF band has changed, and will change further, as mobile services encroach and Freeview channels have to change frequency.

Q&A: Proposals to reduce frequencies available for Freeview


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