4G digital TV interference could leave homeowners footing the bill

posted on August 10, 2012

The advent of 4G, the next generation of mobile broadband data communications, heralds an exciting time for mobile phone users and the potential of the mobile Internet. But there is a downside to the coming 4G revolution, particularly for those who watch a lot of television.

Rural commentator are also quick to point out that mobile network operators haven’t announced that they will install more masts to actually extend 4G into areas that currently have little or no mobile data connectivity.

The theory is that 4G should be faster than 3G, offering mobile phone users better levels of connectivity and speed. Essentially bringing real broadband into the palm of your hand, as well as offering high speed data communications 4G is expected to be able to handle more connections, potentially eliminating network congestion and slowdown at peak-times.

Broadband communication clash

But because 4G communications will utilise a frequency range (800MHz) close to that used by Freeview digital television (700MHz), it is widely expected that it will cause considerable interference to homes that are close to 4G masts. Many communications experts predict that those living within 2km (1.24 miles) will experience problems with interference, ranging from pixellation to picture break-up and the complete loss of certain channels.

The solution to this problem is that those homes that could be affected will be fitted with special filters that will prevent the interference from taking place. Under current plans, these filters will be provided to home-owners free of charge, funded by the government and the mobile network operators concerned with the 4G switchover. Those in the worst-hit areas may also be provided with access to cable or satellite TV, paid for by the funding.

Who should pay to solve interference problems?

However the BBC, Freeview and others in the television industry are concerned that, although the necessary filter will be provided free of charge, at present there is no provision for funding the installation of these filters. Though for some people the installation is expected to be simple and can be done by the home-owner themselves, in other cases a professional aerial engineer will be needed to carry it out.

The number of people who will need to hire an installation professional and the likely cost of this is a subject of debate at the moment, but Ilse Howling of Freeview recently predicted that 83% of those affected will need an installer, and that this will cost upwards of £100.

People with multiple television sets will also have to pay out extra to get all of their TV’s 4G-ready, as this is not covered by the government’s fund.

Culture minister Ed Vaizley recently said that the government disagrees with Freeview over the assertion that professional installation will be needed, and defended the decision to fund only one TV set per household as necessary to keep costs down. Critics say that it is unfair to expect homeowners to pay for interference caused by mobile phone companies.

An estimated 1-2million people are estimated as likely to be affected when the 4G mobile network launches in 2013, following an auction for the available frequencies to mobile network operators later this year.

Though television and mobile seem to be on collision course at present, it is perhaps not so unrealistic to speculate that one day in the future television itself could be broadcast into homes across the nation using 4G technology or its successor.

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