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DTG Summit: Freeview 700 MHz band for 4G very likely, BBC pay-Freeview not

I was fortunate to win some tickets to the annual meeting of the Digital Television Group at the DTG Summit today. The theme of the day was "co-allocation", a rather innocuous term for handing over the Freeview transmission bandwidth to mobile phone operators. We also learnt how advanced the plans are for Freeview to be equipped for a conditional-access to replace the TV Licence and saw the latest Freesat and YouView equipment.

The Digital Television Group Summit 2014  Photograph: Brian Butterworth
The Digital Television Group Summit 2014 Photograph: Brian Butterworth
published on UK Free TV

Before I tell you about co-allocation, I think it is worth mentioning a few other things I learnt today. Please do see the see FITT report, which came out today Future of Innovation in Television Technology Taskforce.

Freesat Freetime

First, is that the rather amazing Freesat Freetime app for Apple devices is coming to Android at some point. This application once linked to your Freesat Personal Video Recorder box has all the features you might expect for finding TV programmes to record.

In addition, when you have content recorded on your box, the application shows you the details of the shows, and allows you to select and play the one you want. This makes it also as simple as Google Chromecast to pick and play TV content.

I have to say that I am very fond of Freesat Freetime: the interface is slick and simple and it "just works" and it is simple to access on-demand content: you can even step back though seven days of watchable content by just going left in the TV listings.

YouView, version 2

I was pleased to see that the second version of the YouView box was actually usable. The first box, which I had obtained from BT, I found to be unresponsive and buggy. The old box took ages to wake up, the interface was slow. If the internet failed for some reason, you had to disconnect the Ethernet cable and reconnect it to alert the YouView box to the return of your ISP service.

The new box, which I got to use for a few minutes, was much faster and thus responded to key presses when you made them, not seconds later. However the box did manage to forget about the MHEG5 text services and so would not access Red Button when asked.

Freeview and BBC "subscriptions"

In the session on Evolution of DTT, in the Q+A session that followed, I was able to ask Jonathan Thompson (CEO, Digital UK) about the migration planning for the BBC to become a subscription service, so that the Licence Fee could be replaced in January 2017.

The answer was that there are no plans in place to do this: Freeview is primarily a free-to-air platform and the stated policy is that it will remain that way.

Co-allocation

You may recall that I have been posting for quite some time about the (Ofcom channel bingo II - introducing the bands) change of use of about one third of the existing Freeview broadcast spectrum for use by 4G mobile broadband.

It appears that (athough Minsiter Ed Vaize was not draw to a final commitment) the working assumption is that this will happen shortly.

The actual process will require the Ofcom Consultation to come out in favour, this is then forwarded to the EU who will agree this at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15). It is the WRC who would agree to the "Co-allocation" of 698MHz to 786MHz (C49 to C60)

What Co-allocation means in practice: switchover II

If the co-allocation plan goes though, then if you use Freeview you have a good chance that all you may have to do is perform another retune at some point.

If you Freeview and have a wideband aerial, then it is almost certain that all you will to do is retune. However if you have a "grouped" aerial, someone will probably have to pay for you to have it replaced.

The reason for this is that when transmitters were changed from analogue to digital care was taken to keep the transmission in the same aerial groups: the planners wanted households to keep their aerials.

However, this was not the most efficient use of the UHF channels. If the constraint of keeping transmitters in their same group is removed then 12 lots of 8MHz in the UHF band can be re-purposed for mobile broadband, whilst keeping the current PSB multiplex coverage.

The projections also suggest that the change to this new plan may reduce the coverage of the commercial multiplexes (COM4, COM5, COM6) by a small amount.

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Comments
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
MikeP
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

9:07 PM

More changes to come, proving bad planning. Switchover III to re-allocate the 700 MHz band will be more unpopular I suspect than Switchover II when the 800 MHz band was gifted to the mobile consortia. Switchover I was so much of a problem for many people and as the pages on this site show there are still ongoing difficulties caused by the switch from analogue to digital encoding.
The non-techically minded viewer will suffer again.

link to this comment
MikeP's 3,056 posts GB
R
Roy Brown
10:01 PM

What was the 'new YouView box' you saw?

Was it this one

New BT Box: DTR-T2110 | YouView Community


or something even newer?


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Roy Brown's 1 post GB
A
Aerialman
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

10:36 PM

I wonder how practical this application is for example concerning the BBC North-west/Granada region using the Winter Hill transmitter?
All TV services,analogue/pre DSO/post DSO and 3x local mues,have always or now use frequencies above 700 Mhz from this transmitter.Which means that up until now,viewers have never needed to change their group C/D TV Aerial.A region whereby not a single TV Aerial has needed to be changed ever until potentially now?(Winter Hill Transmitter)for this purpose.
In practice an Aerial of a higher group may pull in frequencies that are lower than the Aerial is designed for,but in fringe areas will not work at all,particularly the proposed com muxes using(channels 22,25,28).
Therefore,many TV Aerials will need replacing and 'Granada Land' will then
need a second generation switch-over process!
How will that go down with viewers?for the sake of mobile Broadband services!

link to this comment
Aerialman's 137 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

10:37 PM

Roy Brown: We've had them in store for the past month - nice to get some sort of review on them. Good to see they still have RCA's on the back (like hens teeth now), but the comment that 'it had been hit with an ugly stick' is true! Interesting to see what Humax do with their own version.

link to this comment
MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

11:07 PM

Aerialman: The "Co-allocation" allocations of frequencies are listed on the Winter Hill (Bolton, England) transmitter | ukfree.tv - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice in the How will the Winter Hill (Bolton, England) transmission frequencies change over time? ection.

link to this comment
Briantist's 38,844 posts GB
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
woodface
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

12:24 AM

Briantist: you were just unlucky to receive a duff early YouView box - or duff early firmware. We've bought several of the original BT and Humax units second hand for about £50 and they are terrific.

It equals Sky+ for speed and usability, and beats it for lock-ups, catch-up player implementation, and of course radio, which Sky treats with contempt. We haven't used Freetime, but it would need to be good to better even first gen YouView (and ignoring the dish costs).

link to this comment
woodface's 39 posts GB
J
James
12:29 AM

@MikeP is right.

Expect precedence of the past will mean Switchover 3 will be to the detripment of the end user and probably followed by an 4 and probably more to justify a new box or realign aerials again and again.

It be wise if a Switchover 3 then it was a red line and should just clear the whole DTT Band with a migration to Satellite and Cable, Freesat being the preferred migrated target. At the same time Cable could be made by law to show unencrypted Free to air a certain amount of channels.

On a low DTT frequency at a most 1 multiplex left with a minimal PSB and a bunch of IP services such as TVPlayer, VuTV and RadioPlayer live along with Catchup services!

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James's 1 post GB
A
Aerialman
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

11:48 AM

Briantist;according to your" Co-allocations"re-allocation of frequencies,future PSB muxes channels 39/42/45 from Winter Hill,will then co-channel with the Com muxes from Sutton Coldfield!What a potential mess!

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Aerialman's 137 posts GB
M
Mike Dimmick
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

4:39 PM

Aerialman: If that happens, the Sutton Coldfield COM muxes will also move. It won't just be a retune of transmitters that currently use the 700 MHz band, it will be a complete retune of all transmitters to make room. If we even retain six multiplexes (and you can bet that ITV [SDN] and Arqiva will not roll over on that), the COM multiplexes may well have to become national single-frequency networks, and if that happens it will be necessary to change them to DVB-T2 so that the longest guard interval available can be used. There's a good chance that some relays will have to be shut down as no, or not enough, frequencies will be available for them.

The only document I'm aware of that made any gestures towards what might happen is an Arqiva planning study at http://stakeholders.ofcom….pdf . Briantist is, as usual, being massively premature in indicating any particular frequency allocations on this site.

Any new frequency plan is likely to have to be co-ordinated with our European neighbours - we're unlikely to be able to make it fit into our current envelope. If this goes ahead, though, it's likely they will all have to re-plan as well.

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Mike Dimmick's 2,486 posts GB
K
KEVIN GARDINER
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

6:17 PM
Stourbridge

I have to fully agree with what you say on this subject Mick. I don't think that all the concerned bodies are working in unison here. On the one side, we have the television industry wanting to improve the digital visual technology and share that with the viewers by giving us ever improving, superb visual and audio quality etc, then we have the government etc on the other side, who seem to only care about how quickly they can sell off valuable spectrum to feed the greedy broadband and telecommunication companies. It's all well and good setting sell off goals for clearing of the tv spectrum, but the tv industry need time to create the new tv standard codecs, and how much spectrum they will need for the future . visual resolution technology is far outpacing the industries ability to keep pace with how to use it for broadcasting by means of compression codecs. Even before the full roll out of HD on Freeview in 2018, the BBC have two other higher HD specifications they are working on, pending a codec that can compress the video data stream sufficiently enough for broadcasting. A new compression codec, I believe, has to be able to perform at 50% efficiency over it's predecessor. And the higher the resolution of the video stream, the more bandwidth it will require to broadcast it. Also, prior to launch, the BBC etc want to improve the visual quality by addressing the question of the arti-facts that appear whenever there is sudden movement by adapting progressive scan for pre-recorded material at multiples of 50 fps, and are thinking of setting the lowest frame rate at either 100 or 150 fps. And for the top two highest resolutions, they think at least 300fps or higher to address the problem of motion blur. All of this needs time to address, before anything can be decided upon prior to how much bandwidth will be needed for terrestrial tv. then there's the public acceptance of having to purchase new television and recording equipment etc. for the new standards. If the powers that be, try implement un-realistic goals upon the television industries, then I can see that all terrestrial television will be forced to leave the uhf spectrum due to not being fully ready for the changes in spectrum allocated to them, and sadly, perhaps, having to be forced onto either satellite or cable networks instead. That will be a sad day I think.

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KEVIN GARDINER's 68 posts GB
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