Mobile operators form company to protect TV signals

EE, O2, Three and Vodafone sign up to a joint venture - Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited - to ensure 4G roll-out doesn’t affect Freeview signals

All of the UK’s major mobile operators have joined forces to prevent interference from their impending 4G networks to Freeview TV signals across the country, following joint meetings with the government and Ofcom earlier this month.

EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will jointly control Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, headed by chairman Andrew Pinter, which will focus on the 800MHz frequency band due to be auctioned off later this year.

The spectrum was cleared during the digital television switchover to enable the channel to be repurposed for 4G networks. 

However, back in May, a parliamentary question from Conservative MP Anna Soubry revealed 4G networks could cause issues with 945,000 signal amplifiers for TVs, as well as 953,000 households who use communal aerials which rely on the nearby 700MHz band.

In July, communications minister Ed Vaizey said the government had set aside £180m to help residents affected by the switchover. This fund will be used to pay for filters to be attached to set-top boxes or cover installation costs if professionals need to be brought in to fit a device for household aerials.

However, he said it would only cover the first TV set in each home, leaving those wanting Freeview elsewhere in the home to pay upwards of £150 for a filter and installation.

Now, it will be up to the newly-formed company – which will get new members if other organisations win any of the 800MHz spectrum – to ensure the signals don’t interfere with one another.

Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited has received the backing of both the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) as well as telecoms regulator, which are both pleased the mobile operators are on the same page.

“The roll-out of 4G is a huge step forward for mobile broadband services in the UK and will be incredibly important in driving economic growth,” said the secretary of state Maria Miller.

“I am pleased that the mobile operators will be working together to ensure that no viewers lose their television services when 4G is rolled out, and congratulate them on setting up the assistance scheme so quickly.”

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