How to fix Freeview problems caused by 4G

ben roome
By Ben Roome

tv aerial©iStock.com/NotWithClaws

This article was written ahead of the 4G switch-on in spring 2013, but as the networks expand their 4G coverage the problems discussed here are still relevant.

In spring 2013 we saw the arrival of new 4G mobile services operating in the 800 MHz band.

4G allows mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablet PCs to access the internet at superfast speeds and has brought innovations in business, entertainment, education and public services.

While these new services have benefited the UK by giving us faster broadband on the move, Ofcom had been warning since June 2011 that they may also cause some problems with the reception of Freeview.

Freeview vs 4G


Ben Roome is head of marketing and communications at at800. at800 represents and is funded by EE, Telefonica UK (O2), Three and Vodafone, and has been set up to help households with Freeview TV services affected by 4G.
at800.tv

This is because the spectrum for 4G services that was auctioned off by the Treasury in February 2013 occupies space previously used for TV, and that sits next to today's digital terrestrial television services.

TV reception equipment has been built to receive signals at this frequency so viewers who watch Freeview but live close to a new 4G mast operating at 800 MHz could experience reception problems.

This could include loss of sound, blocky images or loss of some or all Freeview channels.

Television is central to the lives of millions of people across the UK so we've been working hard to minimise the impact this issue could have in the UK.

Our organisation, at800, was set up to ensure people across the UK continue to receive free-to-air television services when 4G operating at 800 MHz is launched where they live.

We're funded by all four of the main UK mobile operators, each of whom won allocations of the 4G spectrum in the 800 MHz band.

Is your TV at risk?

TV times
Do I need a TV licence?
Freeview versus Freesat
When does pay TV win?
Pay TV: how to haggle

The communications industry regulator, Ofcom, tasked at800 to proactively address this problem, so we aim to identify the places that could experience reception issues before they are affected.

This means that before 4G masts are switched on, we use a model to predict which buildings could be affected and alert Freeview viewers.

We worked hard to refine this process of identification to allow us to be more accurate in predicting potentially affected viewers.

For example, we first ran a small scale pilot in the West Midlands in March 2013 and approximately 22,000 homes surrounding the 4G at 800 MHz masts were sent information in advance of the testing, asking them to contact at800 directly if they experienced problems with Freeview.

Before the test, our forecasting model predicted 120 households would be affected.

In fact, 15 households in the test area were found to suffer from problems with TV reception caused by 4G.

We then ran further pilots, one of which was in south east London to test for Freeview problems from 4G in an urban environment.

For this, approximately 170,000 household and business addresses in parts of Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets were contacted directly to alert them that they may see reception problems.

The results of this pilot helped us better understand which households will be affected when 4G is rolled out across the UK.

So what should you do if you're concerned about problems with Freeview as a result of the rollout?

If you'll be affected

The mobile networks

We'll call you...

Once 4G at 800 MHz starts going live in an area, we contact specific households and businesses that we predict may be affected issue no later than four weeks before any interference could occur.

If we don't contact you directly through the post, any interference to your Freeview service is unlikely to be because of the 4G test, and TVs connected to a cable or satellite service are not affected.

... but if we don't

Anyone who's unsure if they've been contacted or should have been can always check with our contact centre.

If you notice problems with your Freeview service and think it might be because of the 4G at 800 MHz rollout try this online diagnostic tool or call us on 0808 13 13 800. Calls are free from most UK landlines and mobiles.

How we help

By giving us your postcode and thoroughly describing the type of disruption and the time at which it occurs, we can help to restore your Freeview service as soon as possible.

We aim to do this within 10 working days, either by sending an accredited engineer to visit your property, or posting you a filter to fit to your TV.

For those living in individual flats within large blocks, we will try to identify the person responsible for managing the communal TV aerial, and provide them with the relevant information and an at800 filter designed specifically for blocks of flats.

If we can't identify them, we will let the individual viewer know and ask them to contact their landlord on our behalf. When they get in touch with us, we'll provide their nominated installer with a special filter for use in a communal aerial system.

It is the responsibility of the landlord or property manager to arrange for it to be fitted.

Extra support

The 4G rollout
April 2016: "95% by 2020"
Sep 2015:: VoLTE arrives
Jun 2015: Homes and trains lack signal
Mar 2015:3G and 4G comes to Wales

We will also give extra support for those who may require it.

This includes those that are 75 or over, are registered blind or partially sighted, are eligible for disability living allowance, attendance allowance, constant attendance allowance and mobility supplement and those that have lived in a care home for six months or more.

To put the issue into perspective, the UK is not the first country to have to deal with this potential problem, although it is the only country in Europe providing proactive assistance.

If you're interested in getting more information, check out our website, at800.tv.

Comments

1
6 April 2017
Glenny Thomas

I just found out that new 4G mast in Frome is the reason for little or no TV on and off for past few months. I checked Mendip mast for problems, tried a different TV, a separate Freeview box, and finally bought new Humax twin recorder, only to pay the aerial man to sort out the TV booster. Even the local TV and radio shop seemed to have no knowledge, even making me feel like a 'stupid little woman'! Do you think I can bill the 4G mast people, or even sue them?

2
23 March 2017
Owen Evans

A new 4g mast in Wirral has caused poor reception. I have rescanned my TV channels multiple times, but no improvement. In my opinion Freeview sucks and I'm sick and tired of the TV adverts promoting it.

3
27 October 2015
Justme28

I have been struggling for a week or more now to get consistent signal. I rang at800 and they said there wasn't an issue in Stafford yet. Stafford is listed as an affected area on their site (!!!!). Basically just awful - Freeview can't help, at800 can't help and I have retuned everything 50 times. Want my TV licence back frankly, I am left watching DVDs on repeat.

4
13 October 2015
Arthur Harlett

I lost Freeview altogether after the mast was switched on in Worthing.
Nice to know it's someone elses responsibility to have the filter fitted, not the government or phone companies.

5
22 September 2015
Sarah Hutcheon

Hi my freeview has not worked since mast went live. I am in aberdeen. Can you help?

6
22 June 2015
Diana Brown

Biart place in Rugby is affected. Can only get one channel - Challenge. RBC won't do anything about it as they say I'm the only one in the whole block who's reported problem. Think I may as well cancel my TV license. Not paying for a service I'm no longer getting.

7
29 May 2015
Robert

No TV in Swale due to O2 mast going live tonight.

8
29 April 2015
michelle

No TV again in Walkwood Redditch! Guy working on the new mast installed on Saturday said we should of had a leaflet advising us of a change and or potential disruption? Nothing and now we're left without a signal - hope someone is going to sort this out and quick!

9
20 February 2015
Ian Wishart

Having major problems with certain channels here in Swansea, pixelation and no signal on the channel 4 stations. Daytime is ok but after 5pm it gets really bad.

10
11 September 2014
Joe

Really angry. 4G has ruined my signal, but AT800 won't fix as we have Virgin on the main TV. So the kids will have to watch pixilated images of Cbeebies for my £12 a month licence fee.

11
22 June 2014
A.Owen

Vodafone announced recent 2014 may/june connection and relevant freeview TV problems in Swindon. I now have intermittent problems whereby my TV switches off and on by itself, this affects Sky too as this service automatically boots up from the TV switch to Sky channels. Hence TV is at times unwatchable.