The Taajuustalkoot (Free Frequency Help) service removes disruptions caused by 4G networks in antenna television

The 800 MHz frequency band was taken into 4G network use as of the beginning of 2014. DNA, Elisa and TeliaSonera are constructing their networks at different paces, but already over 95 per cent of Finns live in the coverage area of the 4G network. 4G networks have been constructed not only in the 800 MHz frequency range, but also in the 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequency ranges.

The 800 MHz frequency range has previously been in television use, and it is thus in the reception band of consumers' television antennae. Due to this, it was known that the new 4G networks may cause problems with television reception. The Government set the operators an obligation to remove such disruptions without charge and to establish one joint contact forum for consumers' television problems due to 4G networks. The operators decided to cooperate with Digita, the television network operator in the UHF range, which advises consumers in problems with television reception. Digita maintains a Taajuustalkoot (Free Frequency Help) service, which examines television disruptions caused by base stations of 4G networks.

Through the Free Frequency Help service, more than 10,000 households' television disruption problems have been remedied from the beginning of 2014. The number has been larger than anticipated, but the operators emphasise that the number is very small compared to the number of people that have been given the opportunity to use 4G services. In almost all disruption situations, the problems were related to the amplifier in the consumer's antenna system. An antenna amplifier does not tolerate large differences in the strength of the received signals. If a 4G signal enters the amplifier at a significantly higher level than the television signal, the amplifier overdrives and operates incorrectly. As a result, television channels disappear or the television image breaks down into pixels. The problem may concern all television channels or only some of them.

The large number of television disruptions is also due to the fact that Finnish consumers use outdated television antenna systems. In its Regulation 65, FICORA has defined the minimum requirements for television antenna systems in 2014. An antenna system constructed according to the Regulation tolerates disruptions better compared to old antennae. FICORA recommends that a separate antenna amplifier is only used if the antenna's own amplification is not sufficient. However, the Free Frequency Help service does not ask whether the consumer's antenna system is in an appropriate condition, but the operators' obligation to remedy the disruption also concerns old antenna systems.

The Free Frequency Help service assesses on the basis of the address of the television disruption whether the problem may result from a base station of the 4G network. If so, the Free Frequency Help will order an antenna mechanic to the address in question. In most cases, the antenna mechanic will remove the disruption by installing a filter in the antenna which prevents the access of 4G signals to the amplifier and the television set. The consumer does not incur costs from the removal of the disruption.

FICORA supervises the operators' obligations and, as necessary, resolves dispute in relation to the Free Frequency Help service. FICORA has mediated a few dozen unclear cases between the consumer and the operator. FICORA has also received feedback concerning operators' absent regional communication. Even though the television disruptions caused by 4G networks have received both local and national media visibility, many consumers have not known that 4G networks may cause disruptions, and the Free Frequency Help service has also remained unknown for some consumers.

Even though the coverage of 4G networks is already very comprehensive, the introduction of new base stations continues. Therefore, television disruptions caused by 4G networks are possible in the future as well. The Free Frequency Help service will be continued as long as new base stations are introduced.

This article is a part of FICORA's Communications Sector Review 2/2015.

Key words: Spectrum, Television, Faults and disturbances, Articles, Reviews

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