Mobile carriers cut 4G deal to beat TV interference
By Stewart Mitchell
Posted on 18 Oct 2012 at 11:24
Mobile phone companies and government officials have created an industry-wide alliance to limit the impact of 4G services on digital television reception.
As we reported back in June, mobile operators that win auctions for the 800MHz licence spectrum could be asked to fund a £100m programme to limit the impact on digital terrestrial broadcasting, which operates in adjacent frequencies.
The newly-formed Digital Mobile Spectrum - a limited company - hailed itself as a "key institution required to ensure the rapid roll-out of 4G services next year" by addressing the problem of reception.
The company will be "responsible for ensuring that consumers continue to receive clear Freeview TV signals following the roll out of 4G mobile services in the 800 MHz spectrum band".
The announcement follows mobile operators agreeing not to litigate over 4G spectrum use, with Ofcom today confirming that all parties had signed deals thrashed out in a recent 4G crisis meeting.
According to Ofcom, households in areas likely to be affected would be sent information as 4G launches, advising them that their signal may be impacted, with call centres set up for dealing with the issue.
Consumers whose reception was impaired would be eligible to apply for hardware and installation costs of a fix, which could range from self-installed internal socket filter to a filter fitted to rooftop antennas.
The resolution will depend on the severity of the problem and according to Ofcom estimates earlier this year could run from £10 to more than £200 where the filter needs to be installed on a rooftop.
The actual costs are still be open to debate, with the one Lord recently questioning whether the government's own optimistic prediction on pricing was too ambitious.
Labour's Lord Dubs asked in an official written question: "On what evidence they have concluded that a fee of £50 plus VAT would be sufficient to enable a registered digital installer to install the necessary filter to protect television services against interference".
A response from Liberal Democrat said the price for "the installation of a filter to a rooftop antenna with a masthead amplifier was arrived at as a result of discussions with representatives of the aerial installer industry".
Pay per play
According to an Ofcom spokesperson, the companies making up Digital Mobile Spectrum would only be required contribute funding if they won a slice of the 800MHz spectrum up for grabs, with the winners of 2.6GHz frequency not required to pay because that spectrum doesn't clash with TV signals.
"It made it difficult to set the company up, because obviously the spectrum auction hasn't taken place yet," the spokesperson said.
"Those that are in the company and don't win any spectrum in the range would effectively drop out of the company and wouldn't be expected to pay."
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