700MHz Clearance - Arqiva Case Study
In November 2014, Ofcom announced that the 700MHz band, currently occupied by a number of digital terrestrial television (DTT) services, is to be cleared for use for mobile data by 2020.
We are working closely with Ofcom and the multiplex operators to ensure the clearance of the 700MHz band. This includes upgrading and replacing 35-40 main station antennas along with approximately 300 antennas at relay sites. All reconfigurations and replacement antennas will be carefully planned with the aim of keeping all existing services on-air throughout the programme. Overall, we are responsible for the spectrum planning, network design, programme management, infrastructure changes, service continuity, asset replacement and retuning of broadcast transmitters.
Our broadcast network
We utilise a network of circa 1,150 sites for TV to carry Freeview into around 24 million households every day, making it the UK’s most popular TV platform. This network is of significant national strategic importance providing coverage to 98.5% of the UK’s population.
We are a market leader in commercial DTT spectrum, owning the licences for two of the three main national commercial DTT multiplexes, enabling leading broadcasters such as UKTV, Sky, CBS and Turner to deliver broadcasting content using our channel capacity.
We also own both HD-enabled DTT multiplex licenses that provide services to Freeview and other DTT-related platforms including Youview.
Experience from Digital Switchover (DSO)
The scope of the 700MHz clearance programme is very similar to that of the successful Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme we delivered from 2007-2012, which saw the UK turn off its analogue television signals and convert to a fully digital service.
While the scale of the programme is slightly smaller than DSO, the experience and lessons learned from the DSO programme are helping to ensure an efficient and successful rollout with the key consideration being to deliver on time, on budget and to provide service continuity for existing services.
The summer of 2017 has seen a significant increase in activity for the programme as a number of sites were upgraded. Given the scale and locations of our infrastructure, works have included multiple lifts conducted by helicopter, as well as the use of some significant lifting hardware. The picture on the left shows a heli lift at our site at Glengorm in Argyle and Bute, Scotland.
Works will continue throughout the winter months, whenever possible and taking into consideration the more difficult conditions. Our Safety Health and Environment (SHE) team provide constant support to the programme to ensure the work is completed safely whatever the weather.
Clearance events (where the signal will be switched over to the new frequencies, making use of the upgraded antennae) are already taking place on a region by region basis and will continue until 2020. You can view more details of the schedule on the Digital UK website.