Freeview 5G is Coming, What Does This Mean for Freeview users?
It’s happened again, more of the UHF spectrum is being sold off for mobile internet 5G services. It was only a couple of years ago that part of the UHF band was sold to the mobile phone operators for use of 4G. For those of who suffered with 4G interference on your Freeview reception, you already know how technical advancements can actually cost you money and ruin your favourite TV programmes.
5G originally was planned to be rolled out here in the UK in 2020, but it seems that as demand is so strong that it will most likely start to happen in 2018. 5G is being broadcast on the 700 MHz band which is currently being occupied by Freeview TV. Engineering works have already begun to clear this frequency band for the new services with large amounts of transmitters having to change all or some of the frequencies that they are broadcast on. This has already begun on the 7th February 2018. If this happens to the TV transmitter that you’re using then you will need to at least re-tune your TV equipment to continue to receive all of the digital TV channels.
Here is what to expect when 5G mobile broadband is rolling out across the county for Freeview users.
Can 5G interfere with my TV reception?
Yes it can and it will affect a high number of Freeview, Youview, BT Vision, EETV and any other service that uses a traditional TV aerial for its live TV function. Although a high number of Freeview users will suffer with 5G interference it will still a very small over all percentage of total users. Most likely you will not suffer with 5G interference so I wouldn’t go away and immediately panic.
Will 5G Interference Affect Sky, Freesat & satellite TV?
Subscribers to Sky, Freesat or any other TV service that uses a satellite dish should not suffer with 5G interference, if you notice that your TV reception has noticeably got worse since 5G has been brought to your area it is likely that this is just a red herring and it is something that is causing your TV reception to fail. Having said this, it is not totally impossible for 5G to not interfere with satellite TV reception, it is just highly unlikely.
Does 5G Interference Affect Video Steaming & On Demand?
For users of streamed and on demand services which operate through your internet connection, 5G will not affect your performance of your TV service, in fact if you will be using the 5G service for steaming video then you would likely see an improvement in the TV service as 5G mobile internet is a further improvement on 4G which pretty fast itself.
How To Protect My Freeview Service From 5G Interference
Like 4G, when 5G is discovered it is pretty simple fix. It just requires a filter installed capable of weakening the frequencies that 5G will be using. The skill is actually in the diagnosing part, for aerial and satellite installers equipped with a spectrum analyser and an understanding of how 5G signals work it is actually very easy. For those of you unfortunate enough to not install TV aerials professionally it might be a case of more trial and error. You could try installing a 5G filter and if this works? Great! You may also want to keep an eye on whether 5G services are in your neighbourhood and if you can time this to the exact time that your TV reception started to break up and pixelate then there is a good chance that 5G will be causing your problems.
Going forward 5G will be less and less of a problem to the initial rollout. As 5G is using a frequency band formerly reserved for TV, aerials are designed to pick these signals up very effectively. Add this to the fact that TV aerials are typically installed outside where the 4G and 5G signals will be at their strongest – there are no walls to get in the way you can have a recipe for disaster. 5G signals themselves are not a problem normally, it’s only when they get above a certain strength (literally too much signal) and overload TV tuners or TV aerial amplifiers. In actual fact TV aerial amplifiers not designed to reject 5G will actually greatly improve your chances of 5G becoming a problem as they will “boost” these too!
Again like 4G, TV aerials and TV distribution equipment such as TV aerial amplifiers will come equipped with 5G filtering and rejection. So in the future you will have a TV aerial rejecting 5G signals together with an amplifier filtering these out too if you have one installed. More often than not this would be enough to protect against 5G without the need for an extra filter.
Will A 4G Filter Work For 5G Interference?
Sadly again the answer is no, you could have an LTE TV aerial and amplifier together with a 4G filter all installed in the past couple of years and potentially you could still suffer with 5G interference on your Freeview reception. It doesn’t seem fair does it?
This is because 5G uses different frequencies than 4G, which only typically filter channel 57 upwards and because there are still transmitters like the Whitehawk Hill transmitter and the Dover transmitter which use UHF channels 60 and 59 respectively, it is more likely that the filter you have been installed will only filter above channel 60 only as you would have the situation where the 4G filter was actually filtering out TV channels that you wanted to keep.
5G will be utilising the 700 MHz frequency band which goes down to UHF channel 50 so you can see where problems could arise. For this reason, whenever attending call outs for 4G and installing filters I have always favoured a grouped band pass filter over a 4G filter. For example, if I was called out to investigate 4G interference in Hastings, providing the site was using the main Hastings transmitter and not the Hastings Old Town transmitter I would install ‘Group A’ bandpass filter instead of a 4G filter. This will filter a greater range of potential interfering sources such as interference from neighbouring TV transmitters so you can hit two birds with one stone, also as the filter is only allowing through a very small window of opportunity, most group A bandpass filters only allow through UHF channels 21-35 and the Hastings transmitter only uses UHF channels between 22-30 you can remove a whole lot more of unwanted signals that may be drifting into your TV signal. The same filter would also filter out tetra interference and going forwards future 5G interference.
Although you could because of frequency crossovers run into some problems. I would also use the same approach for Heathfield transmitter but with a group B filter as you would get more “bang for your buck” as the our transatlantic cousins would say.
Best Practices To Solve 5G Interference.
Like the 4G rollout and the digital switchover (remember that?) 5G is being rolled out area by area, this does temporarily leave aerial and satellite installers like me in no man’s land as to where to give you the best advise as the advice I give you today could change in 12 months or so, but I have done my best here. In many respects it would be easily to do the whole county in one day, let is cause all sorts of problems and get professional installers across the country on side and get it completed ASAP so that it is no longer a problem. I can of course see why this wouldn’t be an attractive proposal for everyone.
Install TV aerials designed to reject 5G.
This can only really be done after 5G has been rolled out in your area, if your installer was to install you one prior to this there is a good chance that it would remove some TV stations temporarily that you want to keep. If you have a TV aerial installed in 2018 or 2019 for that matter don’t expect it to be able to reject 5G signals, but after that period and for the foreseeable future afterwards you should expect your antenna to its job in protecting you.
Remove Any Unnecessary Amplifiers & TV Aerial Boosters
As with many problems amplifiers can make it much worse, they can literally amplify the problem. It does seem a natural response to add a “booster” when the TV signal is pixilating but more often than not this is the worst thing you can do, especially amplifiers purchased from DIY stores are these are usually very poor quality. As with all amplifier you don’t get something for nothing, as well as signals you want to be amplified and made stronger you will also amplify signals you do not want and add a whole heap of electrical noise which can ruin your Carrier to Noise (C/N) and Modulation Error Ratio (MER) readings. An interfering 5G signal which itself is not causing a problem could pass through an amplifier and ruin the TV signal. Remove all amplifiers and active equipment where possible and replace with passive splitters if you have enough signal to do so.
Install Amplifiers With Built In 5G Rejection
Not currently or widely available at the moment (09/03/18) but will be in the future. Like TV aerials it would not necessarily be a good idea until 5G has been installed in your idea but it would be a great idea after that.
Double Screened Cables & Screened Wall-plates
You’re a naughty boy if you are using single screened cables! They are literally harder to get hold of that a good quality double screened cable. The extra screening within coaxial cable will prevent interfering 5G signals but penetrating onto the inner conductor and will keep the cable from losing a whole heap of signal strength. Having said this you may have single screened cables already in your TV system, maybe these are chased into the walls are routed under floorboards. You should make an effort to replace these cables or certainly limit the amount of it within your system.
Unscreened wall plates are not so much of a sin single screened cables as often the wall plates are purchased to match the electrical sockets but where possible all wall plates should have a cable termination which is within a metal surrounding (screened). This prevents unwanted signals entering into the system. This is of particular importance in kitchens and areas where there are lots of electrical sources, it’s even important where TV’s are installed on walls and the socket is behind the TV as the TV itself can radiate and electrical frequency which enters the aerial signal on the unscreened wall-plate, the signal is fine until you put the TV near the socket. I have seen this several times. All too often I have seen otherwise perfect aerial systems ruined by a weak point, the unscreened wall plate.
5G Filters & Band Pass Filters
If all else fails a 5G filter should usually fix the problem, this should be installed before any amplification so that 5G don’t get amplified also and before any distribution equipment so all of your TV’s get the benefit of the filter. This does mean that if you have a masthead amplifier which is designed to live outside on your aerial mast, usually the chimney stack that you would need to install and external 5G filter before the amplifier itself.
One of my criticisms with the @800 scheme that was supplying each household with a free 4G filter for those to be expected to be suffering with 4G interference, was that would only supply one filter which would normally be fine, but they would only ever install this at the TV end of the aerial system which as you know now from this blog is usually too late, the interfering signal has already done it’s damage and other TV’s in the house certainly wouldn’t receive the benefit of the filter. I did have the strange situation where I was fixing an aerial problem, not 4G related but the customer has booked @800 in to fit a free 4G filter in case it was that. As there was a an aerial splitter in the loft which provided extra TV points around the home I suggested that he installed it before the splitter, I even offered to go into the loft and fit it myself. I’m sure he was only following orders but this was declined and he installed the filter in the lounge. It didn’t make any sense.
Another alternative as already mentioned would be to install a band pass filter correct for the transmitter you are using. This would have the benefit of rejecting other interfering sources which themselves could cause a problem and really clean up your aerial signal. You will need to do your homework on what aerial band your transmitter uses and buy the subsequent band pass filter. You will also need to double check that your transmitter is not changing aerial frequency band after 5G has been installed as many of them are!
4G Filters will not reject 5G interference! You will need a new filter. The majority of 5G filters will filter 4G however.
Can You Get a Free 5G Filter?
At the time of writing this I’m not sure as it’s still early days. As with 4G there were schemes where a free filter could be supplied from @800. I’m not sure if there is going to be a @700 company that does this type of thing but I’m guessing so. I never really got 100% as an aerial company behind the 4G scheme as already mentioned the “free filter” and installation was so limiting that a lot of the time it never fixed the problem, I preferred to provide our own filter, more often than not a bandpass filter not a 4G filter as I feel this is more beneficial and we could extend our own guarantee to the filter. Obviously at the point of diagnosing 4G in the past and 5G in the future I would be attending to carry out an “aerial repair” or “investigate poor TV reception” so my customers were already committed to buying from us.
Going Forward – Future Problems & Scenarios
With more and more of the UHF going to accommodate mobile internet services, there is obviously less space for TV services. It does seem that the writing is on the wall for people only receiving Freeview Lite and I don’t imagine that will ever receive a full Freeview service.
There is also going to be less space for analogue playback systems like Sky play-back systems that use either the RF2 output on the Sky box or an i/0 link. Certainly filters are going to be a more and more common in these types of systems to clean the signal to put the analogue services in.
For digitally modulated services which is becoming more and more common for people wishing to distribute a Sky signal around a house in a good picture quality or for devices with only a HDMI output or CCTV obviously there will be less space to put these in also. That being said a digital channel requires far less space than an analogue one so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This can present its own problems, with frequencies and UHF multiplexes being moved all over the place to accommodate you will need to retune your TV to continue to receive the services. Most are familiar with an auto scan which is usually a very simple process, however often the TV will store TV signals from the wrong transmitter in your area and give you a very unreliable service. For this reason I recommending the manual tuning approach.
I hope that this blog has been a help to you, if you have any questions please LEAVE A COMMENT in the section below and I will be delighted to help you where possible.
Until next time,
Home Entertainment & Connectivity Specialist
Aerial & Satellite Extraordinaire
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