back to article Digital Dividend could cost cable TV dear

The EU is to investigate claims that 4G mobile networks could knock out cable TV, if allowed to deploy in the "Digital Dividend" spectrum. The European Union is to carry out laboratory tests to establish if a handset, or nearby base station, transmitting on the old analogue-TV frequencies now known as the Digital Dividend, can …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How Much?

    "The shift to Digital TV frees up a load of radio spectrum around 800MHz that governments around Europe, and the world, are eager to sell off - in the interests of providing quality services obviously. "

    The interesting thing about this story is not the technical issue, but the financial issue.

    Providers in the UK already feel like they were stung in the last spectrum auctions* and the current economic situation means there's less money around anyway. So it could well be that governments are expecting to make a hell of a lot more from this sell off than will actually be forthcoming. It would be funny were it not for the fact that they will probably raise taxes in order to make up any perceived shortfall.

    *Yes I know if they didn't want to pay so much they shouldn't have bid so high.

  2. Christian Berger

    Can't we just put cable to rest?

    I mean let's face it. Cable television was a good idea, back in the 1970s and early 1980s, but since Astra on 19.2 degrees east, there's no use for it.

    Internet via broadband cable is not feasible for larger numbers of subscribers because of the shared bandwidth.

    1. Adam Salisbury
      FAIL

      Putting cable to rest??

      So people like me get use ADSL instead? And so that I can have my TV interrupted by the mere possibility of rain? No thanks!

    2. Rob Beard
      WTF?

      Cable broadband

      Um... yeah, I get a darn sight more speed on my cable broadband than I ever did through the lousy phone line, and 19.2 degrees east? Great for German porn or endless 'Babe TV' type channels.

      Rob

    3. CD001

      and in...

      ... flats and preservation areas where you're not allowed to install satellite dishes, oh and it's less prone to break-up because of (extremely) adverse atmospheric conditions (it just breaks up because of the crappy, heavily compressed MPEG2 encoding on certain channels) - and I'll take cable broadband over DSL any day of the week.

      I have cable and my parents have Sky *shrugs* - each has their pros and cons.

  3. Andrew Bush
    WTF?

    LTE WTF?

    Sorry for my ignorance, but at least one example of an acronym is both useful and expected in an article so that readers can understand its use throughout. But would this actually have been much use?

    What is LTE? All you clever clogs who already know can flame me with impunity.

    Searching LTE reveals 'Long Term Evolution' - a not very descriptive term for a collective of technology for wireless data. I offer a prize of one jelly bean for the most accurate and succinct definition of LTE posted here. Entries to be in before 17.00 GMT today.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      LTE definition

      An attempt by 3GPP to run mobile over "simplified" IP network without understanding how IP functions.

      In its current shape the spec is already a FAIL on QoS, traffic management, voice and many other fronts. However, because it was effectively railroaded by a behind-the-scenes agreement between a few major vendors and operators nobody is willing to admit that.

    2. Andy ORourke
      Happy

      I claim my Jelly Bean!

      LTE (or Long Term Evolution to give it its full name) is a 4G networking technology that makes 3G look positively snail-like in comparison. It’ll allow you to stream hi-def video, play lag-free online games, video conference and transfer huge files at high speed from your mobile phone or broadband-enabled laptop.

      From : http://experts.thelink.co.uk/2009/12/16/o2-and-huawei-trial-4g-lte-in-the-uk/

      1. Sooty
        Joke

        4g

        "It’ll allow you to stream hi-def video, play lag-free online games, video conference and transfer huge files at high speed from your mobile phone or broadband-enabled laptop."

        Is it any good at actually making phone calls along with all that though?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Thats OK....

    .... because as someone who's seen Virgin Media's offerings, in terms of quality of picture and content, it would be an improvement if it didn't exist.

    1. Citizen Kaned

      eh?

      virgin SD is no more shitty than freeview or sky. and i never have any breakdown in picture quality like sky. their HD is just fine.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Small problem

    The cables are largely in the ground about a meter deep for the most part and are slightly shielded so should be fine and i can't see it being an issue in the real world unless people start putting their phones on the ground right above the ducting or in their garden.

    A lot of resilience is built into the way the data is piped to end users so interference from one cable to another is fine.

    This does show that they are breaking FSA guidelines as their broadband isn't fibre optic to the house at all, otherwise this wouldnt be an issue as RF can't interfere that heavily with light can it???

    1. Bod

      coax cables in the ground

      ... are surprisingly susceptible to interference and even lightning strikes (where after all does the lightning go when it hits the ground?).

      The problem would be in the house though. The stretch from the ground to the socket and then the socket to the box. Even ADSL has problems due to poor quality wiring in the house and that can have interference even from the likes of Christmas tree lights!

      (and yes, Cable TV is coax between the street cabinet and house).

  6. Anonymous Howard

    Becuase that is where we all keep our phones...

    How about we all try not to leave our "LTE handsets sat beside an incoming coaxial cable"? It's not long since it was a big deal running a hoover within 100m of a TV set, surely it's not an issue not to leave your phone sat next to the cable at the back of your telly?

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Is this "cable TV" as in metal wire?

    If it's fibre optic cable, the only place the signal can be interfered with is between the cable receiver t!and the analogue TV set. And you'll have the same problem with video and DVD players that ar[n't using SCART or HDMI or something. Maybe.

    1. Bod

      Cable TV wire

      Cable TV generally in the UK is fibre only to the street. The rest of the stretch is rather antique coax of the old thin Ethernet variety, which was only designed for analogue TV in the 80s and 90s (and it was often rubbish quality even then).

      It was never designed for Internet and digital TV with two-way communication.

      That's why a hell of a lot of Virgin customers have a nightmare with it due to all kinds of interference problems thanks to the antique cables from the days of NTL/CableTel and all the various old franchises they bought up. And like thin Ethernet, it's a shared loop cable essentially with each house on a spur from the loop, and signals can be wrecked by poor quality and/or unterminated connectors in you neighbours house (and yes, shared loop means your downstream also goes to all the other houses, just the cable boxes filter out other traffic).

      Virgin's advertising is quite misleading in presenting the stuff as some fancy bit of fibre which makes you think it would carry a massive amount of data and be reliable.

      1. Andy ORourke
        Boffin

        Cable TV wire

        "Cable TV generally in the UK is fibre only to the street"

        Nearly right, it is mainly fibre to the nodal hub which then distributes signals and power down thicker coaxial cables to street level distribution amplifiers which in turn distribute signals to your house down much flimsier coax cables

        Hence the term HFC (Hybrid Fibre / Coax) network

  8. JaitcH
    Alert

    What's good for the goose is ....

    Cable TV uses signals on cable that fall within the Aeronautical VHF/AM Band - the one used at airports.

    On occasion, when a cable system is damaged air/ground comms can be compromised.

    Perhaps cable TV should free up 108 to 137 MHz on the same basis.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Re: Can't we just put cable to rest?

    > Internet via broadband cable is not feasible for larger numbers of subscribers because of the shared bandwidth.

    Wow you learn something every day! I didn't know that 4G was not going to have shared bandwidth, wow I'd love to see the switching for that. Lets think, 20 million subscibers, 100mbit/sec each... f*ck me that's 2,000,000gbit/sec, for that it sounds like they'll be needing a Cisco Catalyst 999999950, of course that'll need to be a layer 8 switch.

    I'm ditching my 50mb Virgin fibre and getting a 4G connection as soon as they are released. This 1:1 contention ratio on that 4G thing of which you speak is going to be great, infact we've got several 20mb leased lines at work, I'll ditch those too seen as there's 1:1 on 4G. The response time will be so fast that my pings will arrive two whole weeks before I send them.

    Numpty.

  10. The First Dave
    Boffin

    Interference

    The last time I looked, there were regulations in place that said you could not use electronic equipment in this country if it either caused interference, or was susceptible to interference, so which one is at fault in this case, and why is it being allowed to be used?

  11. Orjan

    Two LTE networks

    One in Stockholm (on Ericsson kit) and one in Oslo (on Huwaei kit). Both run by the same operator though.

  12. andy gibson

    @Christian Berger

    The south facing part of my house backs onto a forest with very tall trees. Even with dish on a pole I have no line of sight to a satellite.

    Plus I like the fact there is no unsightly dish on my house.

  13. Michael

    Long Term Evolution

    A replacement for existing third generation (3G) mobile standards, Long term evolution (LTE) is the the project name for the fourth generation (4G) mobile wireless communication protocol providing support for peak download speeds of 100mbps and upload of 50mbps.

    gimme ma bean!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Errm...

    Isn't this article about interference to *analogue* cable at 800MHz? How many analogue cable networks are going to be left by 2012?

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Can already be a problem with 3G

    If my handset is in close range (~2m) of my digital cable box it can cause serious dropouts and artifacts to the tv picture when receiving a call or sms...

  17. Lars. F. Jensen
    Unhappy

    The cable operators have no license to any spectrum

    Cable operators could and should have ensured that all user equipment was protected. This involves using quality coax - cable and connectors. It is likely that the 4 channels 66-69 (30 MHz) will not be able to carry any analogue TV. They may also have reduced capacity for digital muxes or internet. This is a very small restriction 30 MHz out of 600-650 MHz..

    The cable operators have no license to any frequency - they have to remain inside their cables. The same problem will emerge if/when cable operators extend the top frequency used from 862 MHz to say 1 GHz. GSM and LTE using GSM900 frequencies will give the same type of problems in the 900 MHz band (880-915 MHz =GSM-upload).

    They did not enforce the rules of fully shielded coax and quality TV's - when it wasn't strictly needed - but this is the cable operator's own problem - end of story.

    Lars :)

  18. Avalanche
    Boffin

    Unshielded connectors

    Most interference problems on coaxial cable networks is caused by the use of unshielded or insufficiently shielded connectors between the televisionset and the wallsocket. The problem is only increased with digital systems (as opposed to analogue TV) as interference on digital TV has more direct problems (blocky images) as opposed to analogue (slightly less crispy view or ghosting effects).

    The problem has not directly to do with the cable-network itself, but the end-user experience (because of bad home cabling) and blaming it on the cable network and not on the source of the problems (bad cabling).

  19. Dino Saur
    Boffin

    The potted version of what the EU will spend lots of money to find out ...

    This whole issue has been kicked off by the government in Germany (particularly) wanting to help a few people in rural areas get access to the internet - you know, the ones who don't have DSL or cable. They thought that the spectrum freed up by the changeover to digital TV could be used for better purposes than more mindless TV programs (e.g. access to internet porn), so they suggested that people could use defunct TV spectrum for fixed wireless radio using 4G technologies.

    But the broadcast/cable media companies know that any internet access is likely to affect their ability to squeeze money out of punters, so the battle started. Step up AGNA, the German Cable association with a test to prove how dangerous the wibbly-wobbly waves of LTE were. They fired a full power basestation signal into a 'house' with a cable settop box **from 80m away** and noted that it caused some distortion on the analogue telly picture (DVB-C signals could use error correction and there was no visible effect). Not many people actually live within 80m of a basestation, especially one operating near the GSM band. Anyone care to work out what percentage of a rural GSM cell lies within 80m of the basestation?

    When they tried it with a pseudo LTE terminal next to the cable box with a 5dBi antenna pointing straight at it, there was a clear effect on both analogue and digital TV signals on the same frequency. The effects could be seen even through a couple of 'typical apartment walls' in the worst case.

    Oh, I forgot to mention that they fixed it so the cable signal so that it was on the same frequency as the LTE signal. Analogue cable TV signals (in Germany) use lower frequencies, below 650 MHz IIRC, so the chances of LTE and analogue cable being on the same frequency are pretty much zero.

    In reality there is only a four DVB channel overlap between Euro cable (112 - 858 MHz) and LTE in the digital dividend band uplink (832 - 862 MHz), and four on the downlink (791 - 821 MHz). And let's forget that no-one in Germany actually uses those top channels, and they happen to be the worst channels for cable (higher frequency = higher loss in the cable). And the problem all starts because the cable receiver box has as much shielding as a piece of cotton, so is susceptible to any nearby signal on the same frequency (in the band 112 - 858 MHz).

    So in the end, the EU will say

    - cable settop boxes are crap and should be designed to withstand higher levels of interference

    - only four (unused channels) are at serious risk from LTE in the same building as the settop box

    - four more channels are also at risk if you live closer than 120m to the LTE basestation (less than 1% probability by area in a rural environment, even less by population)

    - cable operators have more than 85 other channels available and each of these can carry a 8-10 TV programs plus a large number of radio stations, so the loss of a few channels at the top of the band should have almost no effect on cable TV capacity, especially when more analogue cable channels are switched to digital.

    If anyone knows if the technical aspects of cable broadband (channels, bands etc) would make a difference, I'd be happy to modify my views.

    But in the end, if you use LTE to give broadband to people who don't have access to the internet, they're not going to have cable TV either.

  20. peter_dtm
    Alert

    What Digital Dividend

    Ofcom (not being staffed by engineers or techie types) has totally failed to notice BBC rolling out HD Freeview. This chews up all the bandwidth they thought was going to be released.

    So its all academic; there is no digital dividend from the killing off of analogue TV

    but then what else do you expect; its a government trying to do IT - guaranteed train wreck time

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