/ 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.

How can I find out if my freeview signal, suplied by Crystal Palace transmitter, will be affected by 4G signals?

I’m about to upgrade my freeview PVR to a YouView PVR but if 4G will interfere with freeview signal it wouldn’t be a wise move.

I find mellis’ comment that it’ll affect anyone living within a 2km radius of a 4G transmitter hard to believe as that would cover most of the population living in towns and cities, wouldn’t it?

From Which?, Keith (http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/07/government-pledges-additional-funds-for-freeview-4g-filters-290960/):

It’s now clear that 900,000 households living within a 2km radius of any 4G phone mast can expect to have interference to their Freeview TV signals.

The government has now confirmed that while they expect most TV viewers will be able to solve problems by fitting a filter themselves, some homes will require an engineer to install the filter. In such cases the government has pledged that vouchers for up to £50+VAT will be provided to pay for the installation.

In the very limited number of cases where filters cannot improve the TV service, assistance will be provided to switch to free-to-view satellite (Freesat) or to cable TV. Extra support will also be offered to vulnerable consumers.

Consumers who are eligible for vouchers to pay for professional installation include anyone who lives in a block of flats, or those who have masthead amplifiers, both of which require professional installation.

Which? welcomes this announcement but notes that only one filter will be provided free-of-charge to households. The many homes that have two of more TV sets will still have to pay to secure additional filters leaving them out-of-pocket through no fault of their own.

Consumers will additionally have to suffer the inconvenience of installing filters themselves or arranging for an engineer to do this for them. Clearly there is more that government could and should do here to allay homeowners’ worries.

I am getting increasingly concerned about this potential shambles. I have excellent Freeview pictures from Crystal Palace and have three Freeview HD Bluray recorders plus Standard Definition Freeview DVD recorders in many rooms. I also live about 300 yards from telephone base station transmitters and I use head amplifiers plus distribution amplifiers which means that I could easily get 4G interference. According to OFCOM I may have to go to another platform e.g. Freesat. All my expensive Freeview HD Bluray recording equipment then would have to be scrapped and replaced by equivalent (if available) Freesat HD bluray recorders. Who is going to pay for this? So far I have been unable to get an answer from the government. Who is going to replace the SD recorders in the other rooms? The government only wants to pay to get one television working!!!! I have suggested to my MP that test transmissions of 4G be carried out before the licenses are sold so that viewers can check for interference .If this is not done then there will be very angry people who suffer interference on 4G rollout.4G should not be allowed unless answers to all these problems are found. These problems have obviously not been considered properly.

CF says:
27 June 2013

Why not ask the question about the DVD recorders on at800’s Facebook page?

liz says:
5 August 2012

I already get interfearance on the free view tv when certain mobiles are used nearby so what is going to happen when this new 4G is rolled out. Used to be a time when if a cb radio interfeared with your tv the tv licence agency would have the power to stop the interfearance. It seems now that paying the tv licence gives you no right to watch a tv with out interfearance. If we are going to be froced to swap to paying for cable or to have expensive filters fitted just to be able to recive a reception then we should grow a back bone a all start to refuse to pay the TV LICENCE.
We are supposed to live in a free and democratic country Yet we are forced by law to pay for a tv licence and told it is to cover the BBC chanels many would be happy with out the BBC there are enough other chanels to watch we are being dictated to but are all to stupid and scared to stand up and have our voices heard because in this country we punish people harder for not paying their tv licence then we do if they drive with out insurance or tax..

Peter Wilkinson says:
7 October 2012

I wholeheartedly agree with Peter & Liz`s comments above.
I too have a number of Freeview SD Recorders as well as TVs fed from a distribution amplifier and a Triax 92 element (Group A) aerial due to being in a valley with fringe reception.
Since 4G transmissions will utilise the old analogue TV frequency, will a single filter between the aerial and the distribution amplifier block the 4G signal???Or will a filter be required for each receiver??? And furthermore what will be the “insertion loss” to the pass through signal??? Like everything else in the world of digital electronics cheap filters (they won`t be supplying expensive ones that`s for sure) will have a higher insertion loss – so no doubt the end product will be a poorer quality picture with dot crawl & noise.

CF says:
27 June 2013

If all your equipment is fed from a single antenna, then a single filter should be sufficient – it would need to be inserted between the antenna and the first amplifier.

As far as I can see, the insertion loss of the cheap filters isn’t too bad (up to 6dB at the top end of the passband), and there are more expensive filters available, presumably intended for blocks of flats etc).

However, why don’t you ask the question on the at800 Facebook page, but be prepared to repeat it several times to get past the standard rubric in their early answers.

I have a further comment about my main aerial. It is a Log Periodic type with a very high gain head amplifier directly connected to the dipole element ie there is no actual coaxial connection between the two. If the filter has to go between the dipole elements and the amplifier (as I believe it should for best results) then this cannot easily be fitted and would require modification or replacement of the aerial itself! I feed the power to the amplifier via coaxial cable from the power supply in a downstairs room so this would probably require fitting the filter on the receiver side of the power supply.This signal feed trom the power supply to the TV requires “F- connectors” Will the provided filters have adapters? I bet the government have not considered these possible connection problems.The suggested £50 voucher would not cover all this work.

CF says:
27 June 2013

Why not try asking this on the at800 Facebook page? They ought to have an answer available since this is a standard situation.

You may find you have to repeat your question several times, as they can be quite adept at just repeating standard statements.

I understand that even before 4G has been rolled out avross the UK, an even more advanced system 5G is being developed. However, a recent media article suggested that this could cause even more interference for digital terrestial aerials.
Is this correct, and if so, will it spell the end of TV aerials as we know them?
Will we have to move onto sateliite dishes or cable?

iccomms says:
9 May 2013

5G! What about 6G and 7G they are coming, 4 billion the goverment made from 4G they have set aside 180 million to deal with any problems!
single phase tv is on is way,there is going to be problems for years to come because the filters will all have to change again,, and with each new g, when 5,6 and 7g arrive

CF says:
27 June 2013

Does ‘Which?’ recommend that we shouldn’t buy new Freeview equipment since it might have to be thrown away if at800 recommends a platform switch?

As far as I can work out at800 will attempt (but not guarantee) to see that you can watch a single TV, but doesn’t say anything about PVRs and other TV equipment.

Apparently it’s going to happen again in 2019. Ofcom have just given permission to sell off another band of frequencies, which just happen to clash with some freeview signals, to mobile phone companies.

Time to scrap Ofcom me thinks.

Graham Harvey says:
24 February 2015

Our house started recently having total picture breakup of all our freeview channels, by coincidence there have been new mobile phone masts put in the bell tower in a church not 50 metres from our house. I decided by process of elimination and cost of replacing internal aerial equipment that it was 4g interference. I contacted at 800 for advice and as I answered yes to having Sky they could only send me a 4 g filter which I would have to pay to fit to my 2+year old outside aerial as the 4g signals will be affecting the masthead amp that is fitted.
So if I want to watch Freeview anywhere but my main TV which I frequently did I need to pay to have a filter fitted. Yet my neighbour in the same situation but does not subscribed to sky had @800 pay for the cost of fitting the filter to their outside aerial FOC. So in effect I pay a TV licence a Sky subscription, an aerial upgrade 2+ years ago at a cost of over £250 and a new Freeview tv last year and yet cannot get any freeview channels anywhere in my house, without incurring an extra cost. The Church concerned has been paid to to accommodate the masts the installers have been paid the phone companies will be paid by their customers but us the unsuspecting citizens of the UK are being ripped off again.
This with the blessing of the UK government selling off a frequencys that were always going to affect freeview TV channels.
This should be rectified to make it mandatory that devices that existed and worked perfectly well before, should be reinstated, to as was, at no cost to the householders affected.
I hope Which takes this on as campaign as there is only the Freeview customers that are losing out. Not the government or the phone companies.