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Ofcom says 700 MHz interference for 86k people isn’t worth bothering about

Angry man hitting TV at home

Ofcom has launched another consultation over the reallocation of the 700MHz band, coming to the conclusion that it was right to move digital terrestrial television (DTT) elsewhere.

The consultation presents a technical analysis of coexistence issues between future mobile services in the 700 MHz band and DTT in the adjacent band, coming to the conclusion only 36,000 households will be potentially affected by interference and therefore it’s not that bothered.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2016 the UK had 27.1 million households, with 2.4 people on average living in said households. That essentially means Ofcom thinks 86,400 isn’t a large enough number of people to be concerned about. It’s a tiny fraction of the total UK population (0.13%), but if you are in that small slice, unlucky.

The decision to move DTT over to the 600 MHz band was made back in 2014, primarily due to the strain being placed on resource through the increasing dependence on mobile devices, and the upcoming explosion of IoT.  Existing services in the 700 MHz band are being moved to new frequencies and the band is expected to be available for mobile broadband use by 2020.

While there hasn’t seemed to be any particularly vocal objections to the move in recent months, Ofcom is entitled to a bit of paranoia considering the outcry surrounding the re-purposing of the 800 MHz band. This is not the first bit of analysis surrounding potential interference, though it is certainly more details than previous projects.

Some of the findings include:

  • The team anticipate there will be in the region of 25,000 to 36,000 cases of interference as a result of re-purposing the band
  • The interference will pose no greater inconvenience than the re-purposing of the 800 MHz band. Ofcom seems to be saying ‘don’t bother complaining; you got through it once, so this time we’re not listening’
  • Households who are at a risk of interference because of poorly performing television receivers might experience a single transient picture interruption on average around once every 100 hours of viewing standard definition TV. For HD, this would be once in every 10,000 hours
  • If you still have a problem with any of this, buy a receiver filter

While it is all well and good having a public consultation for people to voice their views, it is all a bit redundant. Ofcom has presented the re-purposing of the 700 MHz band as its own bright idea, though it should be noted as the European Commission’s brain child to harmonise services throughout the Union. Admittedly the UK will have exited the Union by the time the re-purposing makes an impact, but no-one was to know that when the idea was formed.

What this would appear to be is another case of a boresome UK bureaucrat re-branding an idea to (1) continue down the same path, staying in the good books of the European Commission, and (2) attempt to show the UK public it can do things without its European Overseer, even though very little will have actually changed.

It’s a win-win situation if it works, though if Ofcom has shown us anything over the last twelve months (most notably the way it has dealt with the BT/Openreach saga), it’ll find some way to hash it up.

 

UPDATE – 11:30 10/5/17 – Ofcom contacted us to stress they have made no comment either way about the need for consumers to buy a filter and offer the following statement: “We’re absolutely committed to securing the future of digital terrestrial TV, and our projections show less than 0.2% of households will experience any interference. This consultation invites views on our technical analysis, and how we can further reduce the likelihood of disruption for those viewers.”


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