back to article Ofcom: no comeback for TV on analogue spectrum

Britain's communications watchdog has warned broadcasters they have no God-given right to reoccupy the analogue TV spectrum that they began vacating this week. Delivering the Ofcom annual lecture on Tuesday evening, the regulator's chief executive Ed Richards said he was not persuaded that TV should be allowed to use the " …


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  1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    No god given right...

    ... to deny the government their new revenue stream as they sell off huge chunks of spectrum.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Current HD TV's

    Supposing that the freed-up spectrum is reallocated for HD broadcasts on FreeView: what are the chances that the current crop of HD-Ready TV's that people are investing in will work with the new HD broadcast?

    I'm one of (guessing here) "quite a few" people with a shiny LCD TV, branded HD-Ready, with built-in FreeView. Should I expect down the line that I need to buy yet another set-top box to receive HD FreeView? (Notwithstanding that "set-top" is a rather useless term when applied to LCD TV's)

  3. AndyB

    Has BSkyB 'bought' ofcom?

    I certainly looks that way...........

  4. J.Butler
    Thumb Down


    So it's a no-go on HD over the airwaves for the benefit of the general public, but fine to sell it off so a privately owner corp can push mobile TV and lots of other services that no-one wants.. nice!

    Someone at Ofcom needs a good beating!

  5. Alex

    for the love of Analog!

    How did ofcom become owners of the rights? was it like the fronter days during the birth of the USA?

    ...and what do people really care? this TV thing is just a fad, it'll never catch on, that and that intorweb thing, its all smoke and mirrors, you'll never get a picture as good as on the radiogram and the book was undoubtably much better!

  6. Madge

    HD TV sets

    None support MPEG4 builtin.

    But no HD would be other than MPEG4.

    Actually many arn't really HD. The HD ready logo was a really bad idea. It says NOTHING about the physical screen resolution.

  7. Madge

    Money grabbing

    I have some sympathy...

    For both views

    Ofcom and ISPs

    A: Put HD on Satellite (BBC/ITV/C4 Freesat, not foreign proprietary BSkyB).

    sell off 700MHz to 860MHz and have real 4G mobile internet with 100Mbps. (but only if one nationwide operator gets all 150Mhz, otherwise you only get 3G speed and fragmentation of device support).

    Even with ALL channels at MPEG4, you could only have a handful of HD.

    However I don't trust Ofcom or Comreg to do that right and it's looking very confused with the FCC & USA.

    Either Flash-OFDM or Mobile Wimax technology does about 4Mbps/MHz spectrum, so 150MHz allows in theory a total per sector speed of 600Mbps. This would allow approx 24 users 25Mbps download, or 50 users near HD quality IPTV. Note that 3.6Mbps HSDPA is for 5MHz and only for 1 user. Max connected users in a sector 24.

    Realistically there is no technology that will do much more than 8Mbps/MHz and for larger cells the limit is close to what Mobile WiMax and Flash-OFDM can do today.

    When people talk about high speed Wireless always ask what power, bandwidth and background noise they mean. An adjoining cell can equal more "noise".


    B: You have same selection of FTA radio, TV and HD on Terrestrial as on Satellite.

    A: is only acceptable if communal Dish systems are mandatory for all dwellings with more than 4 "households" (even if one person).

  8. Cameron Colley
    Paris Hilton

    Old fashioned and outdated.

    Why not just allocate the spectrum used by TV to spread-spectrum data transmission -- that way anything, from text to 3D graphics and sound can be transmitted using the same medium.

    As someone who's television has recently given up the ghost, I can honestly say that there were a few more streaming sites available I wouldn't need a TV at all.

    I have to ask though, how did you fail to get a Paris reference into this story -- it was crying out for one!

  9. Chris

    Well done OFCOM

    This is the first I have said this but OFCOM are right. Digital HD is far more efficient and is the way forward for HD. If HD is transmitted via analogue methods there is nowhere near enough bandwidth for a large number of channels. I hope the BBC's plans have prompted OFCOM to act quickly, as this will be a first for them! I can see the BBc have little choice as Sky is the only method of getting HD - with increasing HD demand and a huge number of HD capable TV's being sold the BBC and other terrestrial services need to get HD going. the BBC's plans for HD over IP being the main deivery method for HD are a little misguided if they expect this to be their main deliver method - the bandwidth simply isnt there for mass demand HD over IP - but as part of the BBC's iplayer strategy, its great to have a choice, so good on them for at lest offering it.

    Off topic I know, OFCOM certainly arent perfect - the UK is falling behind other developed countries with the severe lack of fibre - whilst France, Sweden etc are already implementing fibre, OFCOM have yet to finish a study on an action plan! If we had FTTH or even FTTK, maybe HD over IP would be viable! Come on OFCOM lets join the 21st century, why do they aim for mediocraty, shouldnt they be aiming for leadership in an in ever increasingly tech orientated world/economy.

  10. Ian Sneyd

    HD DTV

    To a certain extent I agree with the OFCOM statement about using existing bandwidth, I would certainly prefer to receive some HD content before 2012 when Yorkshire's analogue signal goes.

    Of course this will mean a new "set top" box, after all how many of the existing kit (immaterial if it's integrated or a separate box) has HDMI or similar output to the TV screen? I don't believe getting another box if you want HD is such a terrible thing, many people out there will have kept their original SD tellys even after 2012 so they simply won't bother, for the rest of us we should have had at least an incling that any new HD transmissions would need a new box!

    I do feel a little sorry for those non techy types that have fallen for some slightly dodgy advertising and bought a HD ready TV and will only ever watch SD programming, but to be honest they've probably been ripped off for a fairly low res "half HD" set anyway....

    If the BBC's half arsed channel on Sky is anything to go by it will be some time before it's worth watching anyway ;-)

  11. Madge


    No-one is talking about Analogue for HD. Nor even MPEG2. Even on Satellite MPEG2 HD is dead. ALL HD is MPEG4 digital. Converting ordinary TV from MPEG2 transmission to MPEG4 lets you have about twice as many channels. Whether Cable, Fibre, Terrestrial or Satellite is irrelevant. HD takes about the space of 4 ordinary MPEG2 channels or 8 ordinary MPEG4 channels, given that few "ordinary" TV channels are actually broadcast at DVD quality and similarly reduced quality on HD is an oxymoron.

    Unfortunately many years ago there was Japanese Analogue HD 1125 lines which is where the stupid 1080 lines comes from (c.f 625 lines = 576 visible, US 525 lines = 480 visible).

    Ordinary TV over IP can only be delivered to 10% even if everyone had broadband, or 2.5% of viewers for HD. A mass IPTV viewing audience even for ordinary TV isn't technically possible. Broadcast (cable, fibre, Terrestrial or Satellite) is the only way to deliver HDTV,

    I think Chris is confusing Analogue and Terrestrial.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    "HD ready"

    AC wrote: "Should I expect down the line that I need to buy yet another set-top box to receive HD FreeView?"


    As far as I know there's no integrated Digital TV ("HD ready" or otherwise) already on the market which includes the necessary MPEG-4 decoder or which is DVB-T2 compatible.

    And if BSkyB get their way and get to launch commercial HD services on terrestrial channels then you'll almost certainly require a Sky approved box to get those, hence stifling the market for off-the-shelf standards compatible set-top boxes.

  13. Des

    Updates to HD TV built-in decoders

    I've been told (but confess to not really knowing much about the subject) that the latest HD TVs with built-in decoders are capable of receiving updates over the air? If this is so, can't they be updated to receive new HD FTA transmissions?

  14. Chris


    You're not Chris! I'm Chris!

  15. Robert Long


    HD is a waste of money. Crap programmes in HD are still crap and with the exceptions of some sports and porn, nothing actually benefits from higher resolution.

    I would far rather have extra bandwidth employed to increasing the bit rate of existing resolution digital braodcasts so that they are brought closer to the quality of analogue images.

  16. Chris

    @ Madge

    For whatever reason I thought the BBC were going to transmit HD via analogue methods - ie wasteful bandwidth.- this was rather a mistake! At any rate my point still stands that at least OFCOM are looking forward and thinking of introducing a more efficient codec (MPEG4). I admit this way confuse the consumer (which incidentally is why OFCOM are holding back DAB+ in the UK). Like I said HD over IP for the mass market is a very misguided plan - I suspect (or hope!)whoever announced that at the BBC did so in error. However the way OFCOM usually operates, there will be problems and olng the way and HD over IP could end up being the main way to get HD content before 2012 (terrestrially)!

  17. Steve

    @Robert Long


    Well said.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    No 99% cant be updated to receive HD FTA, the over air updates, (my Freeview box is 3 years old) like most freeview boxes have received updates regularly but this is for bug fixing and updating things like being able to display 7 day tv guide, it's not for rewiring the hardware MPEG decoder which does all the hard work. Unless the latest TV's have got more processing power than needed and more Ram than required, (unlikely in the keeping costs down requirement of all manufacturers), a new box would be needed for the new resolutions and as a standard has not been decided on terrestrial HD transmissions it would be fool hardy for a manufacturer to waste money on hardware that could be totally redundant and costly. OFCOM dont want Freeview & HD they scuppered the BBC HD freeview trials because SKY implied it needed time to cover it's HD investment, OFCOM bought that line hook line and sinker!

  19. Chris

    Re: Oi!

    2 Chris'! This town aint big enough for 2 Chris's :p

  20. Mac

    You can't polish a turd


    ok I admit I do actually know what HD is, never seen it, not even through someone elses...whats all the fuss about?

    I think I might have turned my big 'ol gogglebox on about a week ago but I'm not entirely sure.... perhaps I should pay my bbc licence fees by usage like the governments ridiculous 'pay as your drive' now sidelined scheme.

    I think it was the introduction of reality tv, no perhaps cookery, maybe DIY, no maybe .... well suffice to say, it is without exception unwatchable. Its physically painful to sit and watch yet another truckin episode of 'strictly idol brother corry enders @ home location in the sun' or derivative thereof. It makes my bowls ache.

    Even 'The News' these days treats the trials and tribulations of Hilton Prague and Britneys Bongos like something actually worth wasting a vocal chord vibration over. Hold my hair back and pass me the towel, I'm wretching.

    The only tv I watch now is downloaded because it is the only way I get something actually worth my valuable time or that doesn't cause my brain to sponaneously start oozing out my ears.


  21. Matthew

    Excuse me...

    ..but you can't get HD on a Spectrum.

  22. Sceptical Bastard

    @ Re: Oi!

    Quote (by Chris)

    "2 Chris'! This town aint big enough for 2 Chris's :p"

    Maybe so - but which one are *you*?

    Regarding the comment about 'analogue HD', a contradiction in terms surely?

    I'm buggered if i'm going to buy a digital TV set, let alone an HD one, or wait for fibre or TV-over-IP. I'm perfectly happy using an elderly analogue set with a Freeview box and the same rooftop aerial that was here when I bought the house 20 years ago.

    Besides, the 'benefit' of all those Freeview channels is lost on me - apart from BBC4 television and a couple of radio stations, I never stray far from the original four terrestial networks. The rest is such utter crap -I mean, have you ever *watched* those shopping channels?

  23. Smell My Finger

    Re: Sceptical Bastard

    Completely agree - telly is nothing more than a barrel of old toss, fourth rate shite pumped in over more and more channels. We need to do something more than sit about like a lot of fucking cabbages watching this mind-rot come into our homes. You could hardwire the whole lot into my brain in HD with 3D for nothing with a bazillion channels and it'll still all be crap. It doesn't matter how it's delivered, it's the programmes are all that matters. Unless you get past this nauseating consumer gimmickry you'll get the channels you deserve and it certainly answers why it's mostly filled with low-rent shopping channels. The telly industry is fucked.

  24. Morely Dotes

    Broadcast? Who cares?

    I've no idea what "Freeview" means, but I do know that the only things I watch on broadcast TV are news items.

    If it's not good enough to make it onto DVD, it's not worth putting on my screen.

    A live broadcast of Paris Hilton getting caned in Singapore might be an exception, but that would probably be made available as streaming MPEG4 over the Internet anyhow.

  25. Gordon

    Who's Internet?

    If the BBC thinks it's going to pump anything approaching broadcast quality to it's viewers over the internet in the forseeable future, it's sorely mistaken. Quite apart from anything else, who's going to pay for all this bandwidth? And does the infrastructure exist (or is it likely to exist) in the next 4-5 years to handle this massive task? It's silly, quite honestly. It's like a toxic waste company deciding to continue to pump slurry into the sea because they don't think it'll ever fill up. The Bandwidth isn't infinate, and what gives the BBC the right to decide to shove it's programmes across them to the very likely detriment of every other service?? Will THEY pay for the infrastructure upgrades necessary?? or do they just expect ISPs to pay for this??

    Science Fiction!

    I'm considering getting RID of my TV, because there is so little worth watching these days. I mainly watch DVDs, but i'm apparently required to have a TV licence for this, unless I only want to watch them on my laptop. So there I am forced to hand the BBC a massive lump of money - so they can do bugger all for me.

  26. Luther Blissett

    Beware Greeks bearing gifts

    Yesterday Luther pointed out the BBC double speak in relation to iPlayer, content and DRM. Today OFCOM is suggesting more of the same.

    If the BBC persists in promoting TV over IP, the management should be given the bum's rush en masse, because this policy is designed to benefit (a) the BBC, (b) the public - in that order. For there are noises off, related to the lower than desired license fee increase, about whether the BBC should continue its expensive involvement with Web-based publishing, on the basis that the BBC is confusing broadcasting with publishing. Its pushing for IP TV is a proactive measure to defend both that confusion and its empire aka cost centre in that domain. This should be seen for what it is.

    OFCOM should file its teeth.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sony's latest TVs have AVC HD decoding built in

    Sony's latest W3000, X3000 and X3500 TV ranges all have AVC HD decoding built in although it isn't being promoted in the UK and at least Sharp is also launching a range. Many TVs will soon have such capability as other European broadcasters start HD services. France have mandated that anything claiming to be HD-Ready or similar to have such a decoder from December 2008.

    Of course no current TVs can support DVB-T2 yet as the spec is not finished, let alone standardised. The end of 2009 is the very optimistic (unrealistic?) prediction for availability of hardware.

    DVB-T2 offers only a 30% gain in bandwidth over standard DVB-T which when applied to only one multiplex gives a gain of about 8Mbit/s. This to require new hardware that will only start to be available in 2010 and will be UK unique (how long did it take for DAB radio prices to come down).

  28. Sceptical Bastard

    @ Morely Dotes

    For Morely and other non-UK readers, it is the British free digital television service which can be received through an existing 'analogue' TV aerial by a digital set or a cheap set top box.

    Or as Wikipedia puts it: "Freeview is a brand name, owned by DTV Services Ltd, used for the free digital terrestrial television (DTT) service in the United Kingdom."

  29. Anonymous Coward


    I don't think a license is required to view DVDs - the wording has been changed, at least in the UK - now its required only to receive and watch broadcast TV. I haven't had a license for years and merrily show the inspectors my TV and DVD player (TV untuned to channels, not connected to arial).

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Command economy?

    There are already quite a few channels on digital that have a lower signal quality than analogue. If they try to fit HDTV into the existing bandwidth, I can only guess that the HD channels will be given priority and those of us who don't care about seeing Coronation St in High-def will find the not-quite-enough bandwidth of our existing channels reduced even further.

    HDTV is an example of a naturally evolving monopoly creating a command economy. The consumer doesn't really get a choice, because the authorities and the big businesses have already decided what technology we will be using in ten years time is. Soon, normal people who don't care that much will be forced to go HDTV simply to get a good enought TV picture to get an artefact & freeze-free image.

  31. Matt Horrocks

    TV Licence

    Of course, if you don't use it to receive broadcasts and therefore don't pay you *do* have to put up with their inspectors banging on the door demanding to take a look around. A friend of mine didn't have a TV set at all and they were threatening to fine him and all sorts for "not allowing them to inspect" (despite having shown them around the house a couple of times, no TV set to be seen). Bloody stupid really.

    If the BBC pays for any of the infrastructure upgrades to support their TV over IP plans, you can guarantee the licence fee will shoot up.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Sceptical Bastard

    "Regarding the comment about 'analogue HD', a contradiction in terms surely?"

    Not at all: analogue (vs digital) is a method of transmitting information; HD (vs SD) is a picture resolution. You can send signals with HD quality over analogue links (such as with the confusingly-named "component" connections - the ones on three phono plugs) or digital links (such as HDMI).

  33. AndyB
    Thumb Down

    HD seems pretty crap anyway.

    Saw a demo of Sky HD in Currys. Seriously unimpressed. Compression artefacts appeared (to me) to be much more visible than on my Freeview setup (Digifusion PVR into a Phillips 28' CRT). They were using a large plasma screen, and I was fairly close to it (2-3m), so maybe it wouldn't look so bad on a smaller screen or at a greater distance.

    It certainly put me off the idea of Sky HD. Nowhere near good enough for the price they are asking (and the cost of buying an HD TV).

  34. Scott Mckenzie


    The HD Ready logo does in fact have an indication as to the resolution of the screen, in order to be classified as HD Ready a screen must have a minimum of 768 horizontal lines - great with our 576 visible ones.... hence the Sharp set i have was only classed as HD Compatible as it is optimised for SD broadcasts as it has 540 horizontal lines (the other 36 are reserver for teletext, time clocks, black bars etc..) - but it upscales beautifully, 540 x 2 = 1080 (isn't that nice, a far easier algorithm than 768 x whatever to get 1080)

    Full HD as it's now known is the fun one, 1080 horizontal lines....

    Confusion, n'ah not at ll.

  35. Geoff Bowen

    TV License continued.

    Just to clarify, if you have any equipment capable of receiving a broadcast signal, whether you use that capability or not, you must pay your TV license fee.

    The 'but I only watch DVDs' argument doesn't hold. If the TV can receive a broadcast, you gotta pay. Ditto TV turner card in PC, VCR, DVD Recorder, anything with an analogue or digital TV tuner, connected or not.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money's to tight to mention...

    BBC doing HD over IP - don't make me laugh. ISP's would need 30 times more bandwidth to support even proper IPTV let alone HD content. That's assuming the ISP's haven't traffic managed the BBC's HD Content as P2P and reduced to it to a 5k/s stream :-). If BBC wants IPTV - go and pay for it!.

    That's before the other villian - BT - sends hd content over it's crappy copper because they are too tight to upgrade to fibre!. HD TV on a 512k line, lovely!

    Then we have OFCOM who are going to force everyone to buy MPEG4 settop boxes in order to watch FREE HD content.

    Getting the picture...

  37. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: TV Licence continued

    "Just to clarify, if you have any equipment capable of receiving a broadcast signal, whether you use that capability or not, you must pay your TV license fee."

    So if the BBC start "broadcasting" over IP, everyone with an internet connection will have to have a TV licence? I look forward to the test case.

  38. Richard

    TV Licence ...

    For many years I just had a 12" monochrome TV and bought a colour Video Cassette Player (no tuner) and watched bought/rented videos via an ADC card on my computer CRT ... in those pre-dvd days it worked a treat and I did not have to buy a colour TV licence .... I did have to SIGN my TV licence renewal form each year to legally declare I did not have any equipment capable of receiving colour TV signals though 8-)

    Years later I had an argument with staff in my local Tesco who would not sell me a cheap DVD player without me giving my name and address for the TV licencing people .. my view was that they did not need my personal details for an electronic item which did not have a TV receiver in it ... they were jobsworth and I gave in 8-( (well I had a colour TV licence anyway but it was the principle of my privacy!).

  39. Chris Collins

    upsetting the bandwagon

    I think this is more about trying to keep the current broadband climate how it is because there is the situation of high BT central costs for isps and something like IPTV is what could cause the demand needed for BT to start upgrading the local loop which creates a regulation problem for ofcom.

  40. Keith SLoan


    This is the normal BBC and OFCOM shambles. The BBC has strongly encouraged people to Freeview and in the end their settop boxes and freeview TV's will be out of date.

    I still do not have Freeview, I am not interested in the extra channels and do not want my kids watching more TV as I would prefer them to play musical instruements, Draw, Paint etc. Where we live I would have to buy a new aerial £150 which could also be a waste of money.

  41. Keith SLoan

    TV Licence Fee

    "Just to clarify, if you have any equipment capable of receiving a broadcast signal, whether you use that capability or not, you must pay your TV license fee."

    NOT TRUE. I wrote to my MP and the BBC about this some time ago and if you JUST use your TV for video's,DVD's you DO NOT have to pay. I have this in writing

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