Freeview: TV viewers must not pay to fix 4G interference

TV watchers

Mobile operators should pay to fix TV interference caused by the rollout of new 4G networks, claims Freeview.

Ilse Howling, managing director of Freeview, called for clarity on the support being offered to customers who may find their televisions go blank once 4G networks get switched on.

The UK 4G network will use frequencies freed up by the digital TV switchover, which recently caused some TV viewers to lose access to analogue channels.

European broadcasters have voiced concerns that 4G mobile phone masts and phones would interfere with digital television signals.

Around 2.3 million households in the UK risk losing TV signals because of 4G network interference. The government has pledged 180 million in funding to fix the problem.

Howling claims this figure is insufficient and pointed out that viewers would have to pay up to 200 million collectively to keep the TV service they currently have.

"We strongly believe that Freeview homes should not be subject to further inconvenience and additional cost to make way for mobile broadband," she said.

"The government has committed to recouping the cost of protecting viewers from interference, using proceeds from the 4G mobile auction. However, this will still leave viewers to bear a substantial proportion of the cost.

"The mobile phone operators will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this new service, and we believe they should pay to mitigate the television interference according to the 'polluter pays' principle," added Howling.

Freeview said the Government needs to revise its plans in three areas. First, customers in flats and other multiple dwelling units should not have to pay for the professional installation work needed to filter communal systems.

Second, customers with more than one TV should not pay for additional filters and, third, the elderly and other vulnerable people will need extra help to install them.

"Free, quality television is part of this nation's DNA. Almost 90 per cent of Freeview homes and 75 per cent of second set homes would be unhappy if Freeview were no longer available," said Howling.

"It is critically important that the government finds the best way to get both: protecting free TV and addressing the need for mobile broadband," she concluded.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.