700MHz clearance programme
The reallocation of spectrum in the 700MHz band for the development of future mobile broadband services was completed successfully on 19 August 2020.
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.
How will clearance affect viewers and channel providers?
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 and 270,000 homes may also need to either replace or realign their aerial to continue receiving all available channels.
Ofcom states that as part of 700MHz clearance:
- 14-20m homes will need to retune their TV equipment.
- 100,000-160,000 homes may need to replace their aerial.
- 40,000-110,000 may need to have their aerial realigned.
- A small number of households may need to change TV platform.
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 on the Ofcom website.
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.
- Freeview viewers will need to retune as clearance takes place region by region between 2017 and 2020.
- Most Group C/D aerials should continue to provide reliable reception. However, some will need to be replaced.
- Viewers replacing their aerial are advised to opt for a wideband model.
When is clearance happening?
- Clearance of the 700MHz band began in 2017 and Ofcom has confirmed its aim to release this spectrum in Q2 2020, following a review of progress 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% of main transmitters will require some re-engineering for clearance.
- Almost all of the 1,000 smaller relays in the network are also likely to need work.
- See a map of the current roll-out here (source: Ofcom).