The final UK airwaves needed for the launch of high-speed mobile broadband in the 800MHz band will be cleared this week, according to Digital UK, the body which led the implementation of digital TV switchover from 2008-2012 and during 2013 oversaw the clearance of terrestrial TV services from the spectrum band.
In February 2012, Freeview channels in parts of the UK began moving to new frequencies to allow for the future roll-out of 4G mobile services. The process will complete on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 as final engineering works are carried out in north-east Scotland and the Western Isles, five months earlier than originally planned and under budget.
The clearance programme, co-ordinated by Digital UK on behalf of Government, has seen signals realigned at more than 270 transmitters, serving one-in-four homes.
Sir David Scott, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said that thanks to the organisation’s experiences from switchover and the tremendous work of engineers at Arqiva, clearance would be completed ahead of schedule and had seen minimal disruption to viewers. “From the end of this month airwaves will be clear for more mobile operators to deliver super-fast mobile broadband across the UK,” he declared.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said that delivering 4G quickly was a key part of the Government’s plans to equip the UK to succeed in the global race. “Completing the clearance of the 800MHz band means mobile companies can roll out their services across the UK and help deliver the £2- to-£3 billion a year boost to the UK economy we anticipate from 4G. I am delighted the Government – working with Digital UK, mobile operators, TV broadcasters, and others – was able to agree to speed up the process for making this spectrum available.”
Digital UK has supported viewers throughout the programme, providing local information campaigns and advice on retuning equipment to ensure they can continue to watch their favourite Freeview channels. More than two million people have used the company’s advice line and website since the start of clearance.
Ofcom estimates 4G services will provide at least £20 billion in benefits to UK consumers over the next ten years. New mobile services are expected to become available in some areas from this summer.