When long-delayed 4G mobile services arrive, the government will demand £180 million to fix TV interference
The government will make mobile operators pay into a fund which will be used to resolve any interference 4G network cause to TV signals.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announced that operators bidding to acquire 4G spectrum will be forced to pay £180m into a fund, which will be used to ensure disabled and elderly households don’t suffer TV signal interference when 4G networks arrive in the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The fund creation follows a warning last June by industry regulator Ofcom, which said the introduction of 4G technologies into the UK’s airwaves may interfere with digital TV signals.
This is because the 800MHz spectrum is adjacent to the frequencies used for digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting. Due to its proximity, in a small number of cases this could cause the signals from mobile base stations to interfere with set top boxes and digital televisions.
Ofcom predicted last summer that this interference could potentially affect up to 3 percent of DTT viewers who receive digital TV through a roof top aerial, if no measures are put in place to solve the problem.
“In some cases viewers will have to fit a filter to their TV aerial” said Ofcom last summer. “These filters block the signals that interfere with TV reception and should solve most of the interference cases.”
According to the Telegraph, most users will be able to switch to satellite or DTT services to resolve any interference. In extreme cases the £180m fund will apparently spend up to £10,000 per household to find a solution.
“Next generation mobile services are essential for economic growth,” Vaizey was quoted as saying. “They will bring an estimated benefit of £2-3 billion to the UK economy. There will be some interference when 4G services are rolled-out but we will have the solutions in place to eliminate the disruption to television viewers.”
The industry estimates the actual cost of this interference will be £120m, and the government and mobile operators will split any underspend.
The arrival of 4G in the UK has been delayed badly, with a spectrum auction only now expected to take place later this year.
This is despite the fact that the UK is currently lagging in the 4G race behind a number of European countries, including Finland, Germany and Sweden, which already had 4G networks for some time now.
However, the UK has had to wait until spectrum was freed up from the digital TV switchover, and matters have not been helped by bickering mobile operators.
Ofcom had originally been prepared to auction the use of the 800MHz spectrum and the 2.6GHz band in the first quarter of this year, but last October the regulator was forced to delay the spectrum auction yet again to allow for another consultation.
The policy advisory group Open Digital has previously warned that the delay in rolling out 4G networks would cost British businesses £730 million a year. It is claimed that the faster download speeds offered by 4G could save British companies more than 37 million business hours a year.
Ofcom meanwhile has warned that the first commercial 4G services are unlikely to appear before 2013, with nationwide rollout not completed until at least 2017.
The move may not actually generate any extra money. Mobile operators are expected to reduce their spectrum bids in proportion to the £180 million additional costs for the interference fund.