/ Technology

4G or not 4G? Not if the transmitters tamper with TV signals

You’ve bought the set-top box, maybe had a new aerial installed, upgraded to an HD TV and retuned it for digital switchover. Surely you’re now all set for the digital age and there’ll be no more viewing disruption?

Well, think again if you’re one of the unlucky one million households that lives close to a mobile phone transmitter destined to carry the new 4G service when it rolls out over the next year or so.

Apparently the phone signals will interfere with the Freeview services and you’ll need to have a filter fitted to your aerial downlead to avoid a dodgy picture.

Worst-case scenario for 10,000 homes

But it gets worse for a further 10,000 homes where even a filter won’t do the trick and they’ll need to switch away from Freeview entirely and watch TV via satellite or cable instead. For a small number of homes even this solution won’t work as they aren’t able to receive Sky or Virgin services and up to £10,000 per household will be provided to fund ‘alternative solutions’.

The cost of the filters, switch to an alternative TV provider or other solutions must all be met by the mobile phone provider. Filters will be provided automatically if you live within a given distance of a transmitter and they can be fitted without the help of an engineer, though help will be provided if you are disabled or over-75.

But after investing a fair bit of time and money getting my TV sorted for switchover I’m going to be mightily miffed if I find that my home is in an affected region, and I suspect that the other unlucky households are going to feel the same.

Is there no end to the disruption caused by the introduction of new technology? How would you feel if this was happening in your area… or maybe it already is?


2G and 3G seem to upset our poor little cathode ray TV. Everytime we have it and my smart phone is in the room it crackles and judders and generally complains about it and makes it difficult to watch.

This doesn’t happen with my husband’s phone – which he only uses for texts and calls, no internet or email. I have to banish my phone to another room if we’re watching TV on that one, or turn it off.

Our main TV has cable, as we’re in such a bad reception area (despite – or perhaps because of – being able to see Alexandra Palace).

I’m not sure I would be able to cope with that level of interference all the time. I would find it very annoying.

Shirley Teece says:
2 March 2012

Read your comment with interest. I live very close to Ally Pally (just off Priory Road, house backs on to park) for some reason this street and the surrounding street were never cabled for some reason.

I get very good reception and I have never heard anybody complain about it. Would like to have option of cable, but that is never going to happen now unfortunately. Don’t have Sky, hate the idea of having one of those dishes on front of house and because we are south-east facing disks have to be on front – other side of road they are on back of houses….


And there was me thinking that there was some body to oversea the usage of the waves, as what’s to stop some Tom, Dick or Harriet broadcasting on whatever frequency they like. Guess maybe there should be one, as heaven forbid somebody interfering with emergency channels.


This is the first I’ve heard of this potential problem and I am pretty cheesed off by it. We live close to a water tower that is peppered with spikey poles and beaming things [I’ve no idea what they are but I guess they’re to do with mobile communications in some form or other]. Our TV reception has been much better since we switched over to digital freeview last year but now there is the prospect of a return to the dark ages with hiss, crackle and fade. I bet there’ll be houses on the fringes of the free filter zones which get a degraded picture but can’t have a free filter. And what about if you buy an additional TV some years later? – Will the mobile company still cough up a free filter?


Yet another reason to keep to Cable TV The reception is first class and reliable – My mobile is only used for emergency calls (twice in seven years)


Good point Richard, but cable is not available in all parts of the country but phone masts and antennae proliferate.


End of June now, and nothing has changed. The Press are starting to get interested, too – eg today’s Independent.

Why aren’t Which? campaigning on this? Why should the usually fairly affluent 4G users be subsidised by the usually much less affluent (and often elderly) Freeview users?

This is a mobile phone issue, caused directly by the mobile phone companies, and on the polluter-pays principle they should be paying to resolve it.

And since this affects anyone living within a 2km radius of a 4G transmitter (more than 2 million people according to the Independent) huge numbers of us are going to lose our TV reception.

As I said, why isn’t Which? getting properly involved? It campaigns on far less important issues than this at the drop of a hat!

Michael says:
10 July 2012

It seems that everything these days is destined to interfere with other services. The Data-over-mains units (PLT’s) for example mess with radio signals!
OFCOM are as useful as a chocolate teapot! Believe me, I know, I’ve involved them. They just pass the buck!


There is no cable in my area, and satellite dishes may be affected by neighbouring trees. As the State will be charging telecommunication companies large sums of money to use the 4G system, the State should set aside money to resolve all problems concerning freeview reception. Most freeview users are probably old or poor, and are unaware of this potential problem, despite the increasing number of articles in the media. WHICH needs to highlight this matter in an article ASAP, and then ensure that it is reprinted in the general media. There are only 8 comments on this WHICH conversation, this only highlights the lack of interest on this matter. As such, the Government can safely ignore this subject. An online petition or a campaign to gain the support of M.P.’s and pensioner organisations might also be useful. APATHY may prove to be very expensive for freeview users.