Sunday, 2 December 2012

Mobile Operators Association - 4G TV update (Baxenden/Hyndburn)

Graham, I noted your PQs on 4G and television services (the impact it will have on services, the lack detail in the governments £180m compensation scheme, the fact that Winter Hill be the worst affected)).

I'd be very happy to brief you on the issue. Please find attached a briefing paper on the issue. Do please get in touch if you'd like anything further on this.

Best wishes, Graham Dunn
Policy and External Relations Manager
Mobile Operators Association

From the Mobile Operators Association


You may have heard about the coming introduction of ‘4G’ mobile services, which will bring superfast broadband on our phones at speeds similar to those you would expect now from a home broadband connection. Consumers are increasingly choosing to access the Internet via a mobile device. Across the UK, 58% of adults now own a smartphone, 20% owns a tablet computer, and 11% of people have a ‘dongle’, modem stick or data card for mobile broadband usage.

Some 4G services will be in the 800 MHz band, which is close in frequency to the spectrum used for Freeview services. This briefing note sets out how mobile operators are working with Government and the broadcasters to ensure that 4G mobile services and Freeview can coexist, and explains the measures that are being put in place to ensure consumers are not adversely affected by these changes in spectrum use.
Coexistence of new mobile services in the 800 MHz band with Freeview Digital Terrestrial Television.
  • The new 4G mobile services will bring us superfast broadband on our phones, at speeds roughly equivalent to those we would expect now from a home broadband connection.
  • Rollout of 4G services in the 800 MHz band (part of what is known as the digital dividend) could, in some instances, cause interference with some Freeview services, unless mitigation measures are put in place. Deployment of 4G services in other frequency bands does not require similar measures to be put in place.
  • Most Freeview households will not be impacted. For those that are there is a simple technical solution that will negate the potential problem for all but a small minority, who will receive extra help if needed.
  • Most Freeview viewers are also owners and users of mobile phones and other mobile devices. It is in all our interests for these services to coexist. With appropriate action on all sides, this is achievable.
  • The mobile operators are committed to working constructively with Government, Ofcom, the broadcast industry, and other stakeholders to mitigate any interference between 800MHz 4G services and Freeview.
  • The four UK operators have formed a jointly controlled company - Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited - to manage the delivery of DTT interference mitigation and provide support to consumers, to enable TV viewers to continue to watch the programmes which they enjoy. The operators have appointed Andrew Pinder to be interim Chair of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited.
  • There will also be an Oversight Board, including a number of independent members and representatives of Ofcom and Government, to ensure that it meets a full set of key performance indicators to manage interference. DCMS has appointed David Hendon to be chair of the interim Oversight Board.
  • Funding for Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited and mitigation measures will be met from a £180m fund established by the winners of the 800 MHz spectrum auction. Of this, £20m will be set aside specifically for additional support to elderly or vulnerable consumers. Up to £12 million will also be available for the professional installation of filters where needed by other householders. Government will meet the costs in excess of the £180m for any agreed additional assistance, if this proves necessary.
  • Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited will provide independent support and advice to all Freeview viewers at risk of interference. This will include:

  1. Providing filters to households predicted to be affected, before they suffer interference;
  2. Paying to change households from Freeview to another method of receiving TV (e.g. FreeSat) if filters do not solve the interference;
  3. Paying £50 per household for the installation of a filter to an amplifier attached to a rooftop antenna if required;
  4. Spending up to £10K per household to restore a TV service by DTT where this is feasible for a group of homes.

What is 4G?
As technology has evolved, we’ve been able to do more and more with our mobiles. Second Generation (2G) technology gave us digital quality voice calls and text messages, while Third Generation (3G) technology introduced mobile Internet and data access. The next evolution will see 4G allow superfast broadband on our phones and other devices at speeds roughly equivalent to those we would currently expect from a home broadband connection.

Why might 4G cause interference with the TV signal?

When the 800 MHz spectrum starts being used for 4G mobile services, these mobile signals will be close in frequency to the spectrum used for Freeview services, and use the same frequencies previously used by TVs. There is also a small risk that mobile signals at the lower end of the 800 MHz band could overlap with DTT signals. These issues could affect the ability of some people to receive Freeview, without measures to mitigate the problem. Such measures are being put in place.

When will this happen?

It is expected that the 4G mobile licences will be awarded in 2013. Mitigation measures will be ready ahead of the new 4G networks coming into operation.

How many people might be affected?

According to Ofcom, without action to mitigate the interference, approximately 900,000 Freeview-only households might lose some or all of their TV channels. This is based on a complicated computer model. News reports of 2.3 million household being affected reference the total number of households that could be affected, but this does not take into account that over 60% of households do not use DTT as their main form of TV reception.

What is being done to sort this out?

Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited has been be set up to manage the delivery of DTT interference mitigation. It will have £180m funds to supply receiver filters to households, information and technical support. This money will come from the new 800 MHz 4G licensees. It will deliver a number of information programmes and services to support consumers.

What about the elderly and other vulnerable consumers?

The government has stated that £20 million of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited’s funding be set aside to provide additional support provided to vulnerable consumers, such as the elderly and disabled.

Why use the part of the spectrum where there will be interference?

Spectrum is a finite resource, and Ofcom licenses its use to operators of different services. Spectrum policy is co-ordinated on an EU and global basis. This coordination is essential to allow consumers to use their mobile devices when travelling abroad, for example, and brings other benefits to UK consumers through having a wider range of devices from which to choose. Historically the 800 MHz spectrum band has been part of a much larger band that was used for terrestrial television broadcasting. However, whilst digital switchover means that the same number of TV channels can now be broadcast using less spectrum, the demand for mobile broadband has increased significantly, meaning that mobile networks now need more spectrum. The majority of the UHF TV bands will continue to be used for digital terrestrial television broadcasting. There are significant benefits to individuals, public services, businesses, and the wider economy in introducing faster mobile broadband services, and the UK and devolved governments are all committed to improving digital connectivity in order to maintain international competitiveness.

Has there been a problem in other European countries where 4G is already in use?

4G services already operate in the 800MHz band in several European countries, including Germany and Sweden. The extent of interference that has been found in practice in both countries is low. While this is encouraging in terms of 4G rollout in the UK, direct comparisons are difficult, because the penetration of DTT and the nature of the DTT network vary considerably between countries.