at800 – the organisation responsible for ensuring people continue to receive free-to-air television when 4G mobile services operating at 800 MHz are launched – is revising its approach to improve its support for UK viewers of digital terrestrial Freeview services.
The decision follows research among Freeview viewers before and after local 4G at 800 MHz masts were activated for 1,800 viewers in Birmingham, London and Manchester which sought to understand factors such as the types of aerials installed as well as satisfaction with Freeview reception both before and after 4G at 800 MHz had been activated.
Five months after the launch of mobile services using 4G at 800 MHz, at800 is confident that disruption to Freeview will be less widespread than initially estimated. Accordingly, it is refocusing its resources to better serve those viewers who are affected by the activation of new 4G masts in their area, effectively taking a reactive, as opposed to proactive, approach based on earlier disruption forecasts.
Ben Roome, CEO of at800, said the organisation – funded by the UK mobile operators licensed to offer 4G mobile services at 800 MHz: EE, Telefónica UK (O2), Three and Vodafone – had used evidence gathered over the past ten months to assess how best to support viewers whose TV is affected by 4G at 800 MHz. “We will be focusing our support and offering more support to people who we believe have been affected by 4G at 800 MHz as opposed to trying to guess in advance who would be affected by it.”
Roome said that interference was definitely lower than had been expected, with research suggesting that there was no difference in viewer perception of Freeview reception since 4G at 800 MHz had been activated near where people lived.
“We are committed to a quicker response and resolution time,” he confirmed, with service being restored to its previous quality within 10 working days (as opposed to 15) once 4G disruption of Freeview had been diagnosed as the cause of Freeview disruption. Other initiatives under the revised approach will see aerial installer home visits for affected viewers where at800 believes disruption to Freeview is as a result of 4G at 800 MHz; and additional support for properties using a communal aerial.
at800 is committed to maintaining its mitigation programme until after the mobile operators’ coverage obligations had been met, anticipated to be 12 months after Telefonica’s obligations have been met in December 2017.