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90,000 UK Homes Must Change TV Aerial to Help Mobile Broadband Grow

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 (12:42 pm) - Score 1,227

The national UK telecoms regulator has today launched several new consultations on its plan to release existing radio spectrum in the UHF 700MHz (Digital TV) frequency band so that faster Mobile Broadband (e.g. 4G and 5G) services can be launched in the same frequency by 2020 – 2022.

Ofcom are already planning to award additional spectrum for mobile broadband services in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands (Ofcom’s Spectrum Strategy) and they’ve today set out their proposals for enabling the 700MHz band to be used for mobile services (at present the lowest available band for mobile is 800MHz – released to operators in 2013 for use by 4G services).


But while 700MHz would help mobile coverage and add some much needed future data capacity, it also means moving Freeview based Digital Terrestrial TV (DTTV) services into the lower 600MHz band (550 – 606MHz). Ofcom has already awarded the 600MHz band to Arqiva on an interim basis for the establishment of temporary DVB-T2/MPEG4 multiplexes, although the rules of that licence mean they can get it back by 2020.

According to the regulator, today’s new cost-benefit analysis indicates the benefits of a change of use of the 700MHz band “would outweigh the costs“. Crucially, releasing the frequencies for mobile broadband would be achieved “without the need for another TV switchover” and most people would apparently only require a “simple retune of their existing TV equipment“. This is perhaps partly because existing DTTV services actually operate in a fairly wide band (470-790MHz) and many existing receivers are already equipped to scan these.


However Ofcom warns that a “very small minority of households” (between 80,000 to 90,000) might need to change their roof-top aerials, although the regulator promised that it would “continue to work with aerial installers and retailers to minimise any impact on viewers“. The full cost associated with replacing aerials is estimated to be between £9m and £10m.

Similarly Ofcom also agreed that there is “some risk” of a reduction in DTT coverageresulting from a replan to move services [TV] using 700MHz to 600MHz and that this is an issue to which we should be particularly attentive.”


Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said:

Ofcom’s role is to ensure the UK makes the best and most efficient use of its airwaves, which is vital to enable UK’s digital economy to meet consumers’ needs. Our plans will allow digital terrestrial TV to thrive, while ensuring the UK’s mobile infrastructure can support consumer demand and economic growth. We also recognise the important role the PMSE sector plays in the cultural life of the nation.”

Ofcom expects to reach a decision on any potential change in use of the 700MHz spectrum band in late 2014 or early 2015 and the related consultations can be found linked below.

Cost-benefit analysis

The Future of Free to View TV – discussion document

Mobile Data Strategy Statement

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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