Freeview to get more HD channels
IN an announcement made today, Arqiva has been awarded radio spectrum by Ofcom which they'll use to broadcast more HD TV channels on Freeview.
Ofcom awarded the radio spectrum to Arqiva after an open application held earlier in the year. The licence fee payable is set at £180,000 and will run until 31st December 2018.
Arqiva are a communications infrastructure provider, so they'll manage the 600MHz frequency and work alongside content producers to broadcast new TV channels.
The 600MHz range was freed up during the digital switchover, and can be used to provide up to 10 additional HD TV channels over digital terrestrial television - or Freeview to us.
The new channels will be made available on both Freeview and Youview, and Arqiva hope they will help to improve the take up of Freeview HD TVs and set top boxes.
Note then, that in order to watch these new channels consumers will need to ensure they have a HD compatible set top box or integrated Freeview HD TV.
Charles Constable, Managing Director of Arqiva's Digital Platforms division, said of the announcement:
"We are delighted to have been awarded this new licence. It will enable us to add a much broader range of HD services to Freeview, helping it remain the UK's most popular way to watch television.
"This represents a significant investment by Arqiva in the long-term future of the DTT platform and will increase the diversity and quality of the content available - a key policy objective for Ofcom."
We will have TV
Ofcom has placed certain restrictions on the licence of the spectrum to make sure that it's used for consumer TV as well as to ensure enough people can access it.
Arqiva will be required to rollout their proposed new HD TV services within the next 12 months and they'll need to achieve at least 50% coverage of the UK within the next two years including at least 25% coverage in each Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Ofcom expect that in the first 12 months Arqiva should achieve at least 10% coverage and be successfully broadcasting at least one consumer TV channel.
At least for now
The spectrum award doesn't come without potential hiccups however.
The planned rollout of 5G LTE mobile broadband over the low frequency spectrum previously used by analogue TV means there could be overlap between this 600MHz range and the 700MHz range due to be released to mobile operators in the coming years.
The current rollout of 4G on the 800MHz band has already resulted in the at800 organisation being set up specifically to help consumers affected by 4G TV interference.
It's a problem because the 800MHz band sits so close to frequency used by existing digital TV services, and it's a problem that could be seen again between 600Mhz and 700Mhz bands.
Vodafone has already expressed concern to Ofcom that this could be the case.
As a contingency then, Ofcom have also included in the licence terms rights to revoke as well as to switch over frequency bands to ensure 5G can be rolled out on the 700MHz range without interference.
Ofcom have given Arqiva until the end of 2018 for full use of the spectrum, after which they'll continue to be licence holders until 2026 but with clauses to allow Ofcom to switch out some of their frequencies if need be.
"We believe this approach is appropriate because it provides the licensee with some degree of certainty, while also making it clear up front that the spectrum may need to be vacated at that time." said Ofcom.