DirectGov founder appointed to solve 4G TV disruption

Communications minister Ed Vaizey has appointed the chairman of premium phone services regulator PhonePay Plus, Andrew Pinder, to head up Mitco, the organisation that will be responsible for tackling television interference from the rollout of 4G services.

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 are jointly setting up Mitco to assess the challenge, which will be monitored by a governing body set up by the government, and will now be headed up by Pinder. If Mitco doesn’t meet certain KPIs to ease disruption to consumers, Ofcom has proposed that they be forced to delay their network rollout.

Pinder has previously worked with the government, where he was responsible for setting up the DirectGov website.

Some 2.3 million homes could be affected by the rollout of 4G, but the government has said that 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, Ed Vaizey believes 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.

The UK’s 4G auction is scheduled to begin before the end of 2012 and will allow mobile operators to bid for 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum. However, it was revealed yesterday that Ofcom has given Everything Everywhere the green light to use its existing 1800MHz spectrum to roll out 4G services this year.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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