Culture, communications and creative industries minister, Ed Vaizey, has written an open letter to Ofcom detailing the government’s plans to support over two million homes that are set to lose television signals once the rollout of 4G networks begin.
The letter details that funding will only be allocated to fix one TV per household. Consumers will be expected to finance solutions for any additional sets.
It was revealed earlier this year that mobile network operators (MNOs) would have to stump up £180 million to provide solutions to UK homes that would suffer disruption to their digital terrestrial TV (DTT) during the 4G rollout. Interference occurs for the 800Mhz spectrum, which is being auctioned off in the fourth quarter of this year, because it is closest to the DTT spectrum band.
The MNOs will be jointly setting up a body, dubbed Mitco, to assess the challenge, which will be monitored by a governing body set up by the government. If Mitco doesn’t meet certain KPIs to ease disruption to consumers, Ofcom is proposing that they be forced to delay their network rollout.
However, in his letter, Vaizey said that of the 2.3 million homes that could be affected, only 900,000 rely on DTT for the “primary viewing”, and it is these that “should receive the assistance necessary to enable them to continue to view the services they are used to”.
Further to this, Vaizey is ‘of the view’ that support should only be offered to mitigate interference into primary sets and not additional sets. Consumers who want an undisrupted television viewing experience for additional sets post-4G will be required to go and purchase solutions themselves.
The primary solution for households will be the provision of a free filter that consumers will have to fit to their TV receiver, which should solve the problem. However, where an outdoor amplifier is used, households will be provided with “vouchers” to cover the cost, estimated at approximately £50 + VAT, to get a professional installer to come and fit the filter.
Ofcom has estimated that between 17,000 and 38,500 premises will not benefit from the filter, and as a result should be supported in switching to free-to-view satellite or to cable TV.
However, some 500 of these homes are not able to receive satellite or cable and will be allocated up to £10,000 each to look at alternative ways of restoring good DTT reception.
Ed Vaizey said: “I am very keen to see Mitco fully operational as soon as possible. Clearly there is a considerable amount of work to be done by the MNOs and others to put in place an effective scheme of assistance.”
“This work will only be successful if it is done in close cooperation with the current MNOs, with the broadcasters, and with other parties who have a direct interest.”