Between 2006 and 2013 saw an historic change for every TV viewing household across the British Isles when our aerial transmission network changed from old analogue methodology to digital. The restriction of transmitting only 5 TV channels to roof top aerials disappeared and today some areas can scan over a 100 services through the humble TV aerial perched on their roof. 

We had a hiccup in proceedings starting in 2014 when the top end of our TV transmission band (channels 60-69) was sold off to mobile phone operators in order to offer high speed broadband on smartphones.  Some transmitters had to juggle essential services over to other frequencies and some households needed aerial attention – all paid for by the mobile operators. 

The next sacrifice of TV spectrum is about to descend. Channels 48 and above are about to be auctioned to the highest bidder in a quest for even more mobile coverage of broadband. The last frequency migration squashed channels into less space, this latest proposition means the capacity of aerials to cope with a frequency shift is diminished and it’s calculated that between 100,000 and 160,000 households could need new aerials to cope with re-allocation of their popular viewing to the remaining channels within the UHF frequency spectrum.

Numerous consultations in the broadcast sector have been conducted but as with all number crunching on TV aerial installations there are more questions for every answer we come up with. 

Without technically analysing it to death – folks who survived the digital switchover (DSO) through 2006 and 2013 without changing their aerial may well now be forced to make amends if they find channels have disappeared even though they conduct the familiar rescan our TV asks us to do periodically. 

Wideband or broadband aerials were advocated during DSO, in order to cope with all the juggling that was necessary throughout the closure of analogue and switch to digital. 

Some folk got away with the aerial they had in order to retune and view the most watched BBC, ITV and C4 offerings.  Their aerials were actually ‘tuned’ to their local transmitter and installers selected the relevant aerial according to regional location and the frequencies coming out of the transmitter.  There’s a good chance that where frequencies are lost this time an aerial change is necessary.

What still isn’t decided is who is going to foot the bill. During DSO every household in the UK was warned over a long period of time the switch was coming and it was down to the householder to do something about it. Money was only allocated to the vulnerable or less well-off who could not afford to pay for new kit to go digital. 

This time many are making a change they never asked for or wanted but worse still there is no perceived benefit as could be sold with a DSO that promised better pictures and 50 or more channels instead of 4 or 5.

This time around a mobile operator wants to claim the frequency space your aerial was aimed at and you may not want what they are peddling. We could claim we never asked for DSO in 2006 but at least we were all going to be offered a much improved service – although some would argue against that.

To ensure a smooth transition, the CAI willing be working closely with Digital UK (DUK) – the body that saw us all through DSO and now entrusted with this latest programme of change. As the UK’s representative trade body for the signal reception industry it plays a vital role in providing a reputable and competent workforce ready and able to advise the broadcast industry and householders on the best way forward to deal with aerial reception issues. 

Over the 2006 and 2013 term of DSO CAI members probably oversaw the installation of between three to five million TV aerials not to mention upwards of two and a half million households living in apartments using shared aerial systems. In the grand scheme of things, 140,000 aerial service visits are no great shakes as the industry has plenty of capacity at the moment.

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