Britain’s 4G headache

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iol scitech march 9 4G

AP

The first 4G network in the UK launched last month without problem for TV viewers but Freeview users are likely to be affected next year as the mobile networks move to a spectrum close to that currently used by digital terrestrial television.

London - Hundreds of homes in the UK that have their television signal wiped out by the latest 4G mobile phone networks will have to be reconnected at a cost of up to £10,000 each (about R120 000), it was claimed on Monday.

Millions of households will suffer interference, ranging from image distortion to the total loss of some channels.

Most will be able to use a filter to block the signal, but for families living closest to the 4G base stations, the problems are expected to be so severe that this will be ineffective.

Freeview users are expected to be worst hit and there have been warnings that hundreds will be unable to switch to satellite or cable providers, leaving them without access to normal television services.

Experts have warned that up to 2.3 million homes could suffer some form of interference when the 4G networks – which offer phone users much faster internet connection – are rolled out across the country next year.

Ministers have promised a £180-million “help scheme”, funded by the mobile phone operators, for those hit by the problems.

But MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, called for the national launch to be delayed while local trials are conducted.

The first 4G network in the UK launched last month without problem for TV viewers but Freeview users are likely to be affected next year as the mobile networks move to a spectrum close to that currently used by digital terrestrial television.

Households within 1.24 miles of a 4G base station are likely to suffer the worst interference and millions of homes are expected to need filters. Some may need to switch from Freeview to cable or satellite television providers.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has admitted that some will be unable to switch, and said the 500 worst affected households would receive up to £10,000 each to find an alternative solution. The government has promised that homes in affected areas will be provided with filters to block the 4G signal, or given £50 towards a professional refit, funded by the mobile companies.

Ofcom has identified areas likely to be worst hit, with homes served by the Crystal Palace transmitter in London and by the Winter Hill transmitter in Lancashire at the top of the list.

Freeview managing director Ilse Howling has warned that the government has underestimated the amount of money needed to fix the problem for users because the £180-million budget did not include funding for installation.

“We think it will actually cost £400-million,” she said.

Mr Whittingdale said: “One of my concerns is that the government is making the filters available only for households primarily using digital terrestrial TV, and yet there will be a large number of additional households that have second sets and they will not receive filters.

“I have been informed that 38,500 households will still be affected after filter installation and that, of those, perhaps 18,000 will be primary digital terrestrial television households.” - Daily Mail

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