Department for Culture Media and Sport

4G interference assistance scheme

Digital Switchover has reduced the amount of radio spectrum required for terrestrial television, enabling Ofcom to auction the 800 MHz band for 4G to meet growing demand for mobile internet access.

The auction is happening at the moment. Once it concludes and 4G rolls out over 3-5 years from May 2013, it will cause TV interference for a minority of households – roughly 1 in 10, or 2.3 million.

It will affect households near 4G mobile base stations and will be worse for those who also live a long way from a television transmitter.

Assistance will be provided to consumers, giving special attention to the 900,000 households who are likely experience interference and rely on terrestrial television for their primary viewing (as opposed to cable or satellite).

The £180 million coexistence scheme will be funded and delivered collectively by the successful 800 MHz licensees through a joint company, Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL), which will be overseen by an independent TV/4G Coexistence Oversight Board, set up by DCMS.

Why interference occurs

Interference happens because the 800 MHz spectrum band is adjacent to the 700 MHz spectrum band used by terrestrial television.

It can happen when signals emitted by a 4G mobile base station leak into the 700 MHz spectrum band or when the terrestrial television receiver has limited ability to filter out signals from the 800 MHz band.

Help for consumers

Assistance will be focussed on the 900,000 households likely to experience interference that rely on terrestrial television for their primary viewing. Fitting a small filter will solve the interference for most households and the 900,000 households likely to experience interference will receive a free filter to fit in the normal living space.

The assistance scheme will include:

  • providing information
  • providing filters free of charge, sent out proactively and reactively
  • installation vouchers for £50 + VAT for homes that need a professional installer to fit a filter because they have a roof top aerial amplifier
  • platform changes: a switch to free to air satellite or cable TV – where fitting a filter alone cannot restore an acceptable level of TV reception
  • bespoke assistance up to a limit of £10,000 per household to restore terrestrial television if a filter does not solve the problem and an alternative platform change is not available
  • extra support, including the fitting of filters, for vulnerable consumers: those aged over 75 and younger people with disabilities

Find out more on the Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL) assistance scheme website.

For those people in communal dwellings, for example blocks of flats, using a communal aerial system, the person responsible for the aerial (normally the landlord) will receive the filter for fitting.

The £10,000 figure for bespoke assistance is the limit that DMSL will spend per household to solve the issue if the fitting of a filter does not resolve the problem and a platform change is not available. It is not financial compensation to consumers.

Government has decided that support should only be offered to reduce interference into primary sets and not to additional sets. This is consistent with the approach taken during TV switchover.

However, many households that receive a free filter will be using satellite or cable for their primary set, so they will be able to use the filter for their second set. The government also wants the coexistence scheme to make it easy for affected viewers to acquire additional filters.

There will be no support for interference issues that result from problems with set-top aerials, cable TV equipment, local TV services and mobile handsets using 4G as set out in Ed Vaizey’s letter of 10 July 2012.