In November 2014 Ofcom announced its decision to reallocate some of the airwaves used by Freeview to mobile services. A similar process is being carried out across Europe, as spectrum is reassigned to meet a predicted increase in demand for mobile data. As a result, some Freeview channels will need to move to new frequencies. This process is known as 700MHz clearance.
Most Freeview viewers will simply need to retune their TV equipment when this change takes place in their area. However, Ofcom has stated that between 140,000 - 270,000 homes may also need to either replace or realign their aerial to continue receiving all available channels.
As part of 700MHz clearance, Ofcom states that:
Most Freeview viewers are familiar with retuning and do so from time-to-time to update their channel line-up - where TV equipment does not do this automatically. In some cases, more than one retune may be required where clearance takes place in multiple stages.
Aerial changes are most likely to be needed where TV services are broadcast in the aerial group C/D, which uses the 700MHz frequency band. However, most homes using C/D aerials should continue to receive reliable signals after clearance.
Installers replacing aerials where signals are currently transmitted in this group are recommended to advise customers about clearance and offer a wideband model.
More information on wideband aerials is available here.
Some viewers may also need to install a small filter at the back of their TV to prevent interference once new mobile services launch. Changes to the 700MHz band will also affect equipment used in the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) industry.
Work is now underway to investigate the scale of the impact of 700MHz clearance in more detail and Digital UK is working with Ofcom and Government to propose a series of trials starting next year.
Clearance of the 700MHz band is scheduled to begin in 2017 and Ofcom has now confirmed its aim to release this spectrum in Q2 2020. This target date will be reviewed with Government in August 2017. Digital UK has been asked on behalf of the UK multiplex operators to co-ordinate the technical planning of the changes at TV transmitters, which will be implemented by Arqiva and will take place region by region. Around 90 per cent of main transmitters will require some re-engineering for clearance. Almost all of the 1,000 smaller relays in the network are likely to need work also.
As with digital switchover, it is anticipated that some help will be available for viewers with retuning. The DCMS is expected to publish its policy for communications and viewer support later in the autumn. This page will be updated when new information is published.
Decision to make the 700MHz band available for mobile data - statement
Call for Inputs: Managing the effects of 700MHz clearance on PMSE and DTT viewers
Consultation: Maximising the benefits of 700MHz clearance
Maximising the benefits of 700MHz clearance - Statement
Consultation: The future use of the 700MHz band
Digital UK responses to Ofcom
Digital UK response: Managing the effects of 700MHz clearance on PMSE and DTT viewers
Digital UK response: Maximising the benefits of 700MHz clearance
Digital UK response: The future use of the 700MHz band