TVs facing black-out from 4G interference, claims Freeview
Millions may be affected by effects of internet signal, says Claire Smith
THOUSANDS of people across Scotland could face loss of television channels, fuzzy pictures or even lose reception altogether because of the roll-out of 4G internet, says Freeview.
New figures estimate 185,474 households in Scotland could be affected – with 2.1 million across the UK expected to face a loss of signal because of interference caused by 4G.
The 4G network, which will mean faster smartphone internet access, is due to be rolled out across the UK from next year – however, because the frequency is close to that used by by free digital channels, it is expected to cause difficulties.
Although the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has earmarked £180 million to pay for adapting televisions where the signal is affected, Freeview says this may not be enough.
According to figures obtained by the company, fitting filters to televisions to restore picture quality and lost channels is likely to cost at least twice what the government has earmarked to pay for it.
Furthermore, the government has only offered to provide a filter for one TV in each affected household – meaning consumers themselves will have to pay to adapt any further TV sets.
Representatives of Freeview, which provides 50 free channels to 20 million homes across the UK, are meeting with culture and creative industries minister Ed Vaisey on Monday to demand further action.
Ilse Howling, managing director of Freeview, 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 that they should pay to mitigate the television interference according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
“Free, quality TV is part of Scotland’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.”
A DCMS spokesperson said: “We have announced a £180 million help scheme, to be funded by the winning 800MHz licensees, to deliver solutions to TV interference resulting from 4G mobile services. For most households, fitting a filter provided by the scheme will solve the problem, but there is funding for more complex cases.
“Ofcom is considering responses to their consultation on how the help scheme should work and we will listen to any concerns raised by them, or by Freeview, in planning next steps”
A Which? spokesperson said: “The 2.3 million Freeview households that could be affected by the new 4G networks should not have to pay to combat interference. The government has said every affected household will receive one free filter, but for some households the installation costs could prove expensive. The government must be clearer about the level of support available to these households, and ensure the costs fall primarily to the mobile operators and not the taxpayer or individual consumers.”
Earlier this year, Orange and T Mobile launched a joint campaign under the name Everything Everywhere to lobby for the government to speed up the roll-out of 4G across the UK.
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