EE, Telefónica O2, Three and Vodafone have jointly launched a new company that will reduce the impact of 4G mobile services on Freeview digital TV broadcasts.
The new company, Digital Mobile Spectrum Ltd (DMSL), will issue filter devices that can be attached to television sets to reduce the interference from 4G signals on the 800 MHz spectrum, currently used to broadcast Freeview services.
Freeview broadcasts are due to be moved to the 600 MHz band next year. Clearly, the mobile operators felt they could not wait until that happens to bring 4G to market.
Later this year, communications regulator Ofcom will start the process of auctioning off licenses to use the 800 MHz spectrum for 4G. The winning bidders will fund the distribution of the filter devices.
The DMSL initiative was one of the conditions imposed on the mobile operators in exchange for bringing the 4G spectrum auction forward by five months. During negotiations over the auction, DigitalUK, the organisation that is overseeing the digital switchover, warned that rolling out 4G early would effect Freeview watchers.
As a result of those negotiations, mobile operators will be able to launch their 4G services in May next year, five months earlier than previously agreed (This excludes EE, which will launch its 4G offering next week).
The interim chairman for DMSL is Andrew Pinder, former leader of the Office of the e-Envoy, a short-lived digital advisory agency set up by Tony Blair. Pinder is also chairman of PhonePayPlus, a division of Ofcom that regulates premium phone lines, and was previously European head of technology operations for Citibank.
In a statement, Pinder described the creation of his new employer as "an excellent response by all mobile operators to the Minister’s challenge to set up this company as quickly as possible.
“It represents a real milestone and I will continue to work with all of the mobile operators and other stakeholders to get plans in place for the rapid launch of 4G services on the spectrum to be auctioned next year."
“The roll-out of 4G is a huge step forward for mobile broadband services in the UK, and will be incredibly important in driving economic growth,” said secretary of state for Culture, Media and sport Maria Miller. “I am pleased that the mobile operators will be working together to ensure that no viewers lose their television services when 4G is rolled out, and congratulate them on setting up the assistance scheme so quickly.”