Irish authorities to investigate if 4G will disrupt TV signals in homes

20 Feb 2013

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Ireland’s Department of Communications has confirmed that a working group has been established to examine the degree to which TV signals will be interfered with when 4G LTE services are switched on in the coming months.

In the UK, it has emerged that up to 2.3m homes will experience significant levels of interference to their TV signals when LTE services launch later this year. It is believed that up to 40,000 homes in the UK will lose their TV signals completely.

This morning, the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom revealed it raised stg£2.34bn from its auction of 4G mobile spectrum. The UK government had hoped the auction would have raised stg£3.5bn for the Treasury.

In November, Ireland’s telecoms regulator revealed it raised €855m from its auctions, with licences awarded to Vodafone, Eircom, O2 and Three.

In the UK, homes within a 2-kilometre (1.25-mile) radius of a 4G mast could be affected because the 800MHz signal sits alongside the 700Mhz radio frequency used for Freeview.

So, will TV in Ireland be affected when 4G goes live?

In response to queries from Siliconrepublic.com, Ireland’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources confirmed it is evaluating the issue arising in Ireland.

“A group has been established by the department to examine the degree to which this issue may arise in Ireland when the roll out of 4G services commences later in 2013.

“This group comprises officials from the department, as well as representatives from ComReg, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, RTÉ and the mobile industry, and its focus is on assessing the potential for any interference in regard to households that use ‘free to air’television and to identify any possible remedial measures that may be required. It is the intention that an agreed strategy, as necessary, that addresses the issue should be put in place in advance of 4G roll out,” the department spokesman said.

When we contacted telecoms regulator ComReg on the issue we were directed to an FAQ that confirmed that homes in weak signal areas that previously had to install a masthead amplifier – a small plastic box – on their rooftop aerials to get a decent signal might be affected.

Homes using the free digital television service Saorview are unlikely to be affected, the FAQ says, because Saorview factored its service in for use without the need for amplifiers.

However, amplifiers are likely to be still in use in homes located in areas of weak signal or coverage blackspots. These homes or homes that use amplifiers to boost a TV signal to a number of other TVs in the household are likely to experience radio frequency (RF) overload when 4G is switched on alongside the new digital terrestrial TV services.

ComReg says: “If you receive off air reception of the national services (RTÉ, TG4, TV3) by means of a roof top aerial which is fitted with a mast head amplifier, you may suffer degradation or even loss of television reception when LTE services come on stream from early 2013 onwards. This loss is likely to be as a result of the amplifier on your roof amplifying an unwanted signal and suffering overload.”

When contacted by Siliconrepublic.com, Three Ireland said its 4G coverage won’t affect TV signals.

“Three will not have to deal with this issue as our spectrum portfolio will not affect TV signal,” its CTO David Hennessy told Siliconrepublic.com.

“Three Ireland purchased 1800Mhz for LTE purposes and this spectrum will not interfere with TV signal in Ireland. The spectrum that may cause a potential issue is 800Mhz, which the older networks will have to address,” Hennessy said.

A spokesperson for O2 in Ireland said: “Telefónica Ireland’s LTE network will fully comply with ComReg’s licensing and technical specifications. Telefónica already operates LTE networks in other countries and has not to date experienced interference issues impacting TV services.”

The spokesman pointed out that the UK hasn’t rolled out 800MHz yet. In countries where they have, such as Germany, only a very small number of cases have come to light so far.

“Ireland is different to the UK as we do not use the TV spectrum immediately adjacent to the mobile band, so this gives some additional separation between the services,” the O2 spokesman said.

auctions

The signal blocks allotted to mobile operators in November following the 4G licence auctions

Wireless signal image via Shutterstock

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com