Digital Switch Over - Arqiva Case Study

When the UK successfully switched from its analogue TV networks to a completely new digital terrestrial TV network, Arqiva couldn’t have been happier. That’s because we’d made a difference to millions of lives.

The UK’s digital switch over project brought digital terrestrial TV to homes across the length and breadth of the UK. It couldn’t have happened without the extraordinary engineering talent at Arqiva. The commitment of our engineers to go the extra mile in everything they did ensured we delivered an amazing success story for the UK.

As the transmission contractor for all UK terrestrial television services, we had the responsibility for implementing the switch over at all 1,154 transmitter sites. In practical terms this meant we had to re-engineer the UK’s entire terrestrial TV network. It entailed an investment of £630 million and 1,200 man-years of work over a five-year period.

It was a massive responsibility that we took incredibly seriously. Every single site had to be re-engineered. Each one was an operational site requiring existing services to be maintained right up to switch over. Transmitter output power ranged from 2 watts for the smallest relays to 200 kilowatts for the largest main stations.

We overcame many challenges in hazardous environments to deliver this project. And we had to deal with inclement weather over successive poor summers. Events like the Icelandic ash cloud and the Japanese earthquake threatened travel and equipment supply. Yet we stayed focused on the job in hand.

“The switch over was a very exciting time for us as it marked the completion of several years’ work by so many people in Arqiva. I am proud to have been part of such a dedicated and professional team that delivered high power digital television services to viewers in the UK.”

Many of our transmission sites are in remote rural locations where rare flora and fauna had to be protected or worked around during times of major activity. This commitment to minimising the environmental impact of our work can also be seen in the Ground Works Enabling (GWE) programme. This ran alongside the digital switch over and sought to recycle as much as possible of the equipment removed during the decommissioning of analogue transmitter systems. This kept landfill to a minimum. As at mid-April 2013 the programme had allowed us re-cycle 93.6% of the total 2,318 tonnes of waste. The programme is due to be completed in June 2013.


At all times we sought to go the extra mile, working in a pragmatic, positive and innovative way.

For example, we pioneered the use of special load-carrying helicopters to install new antennas at great heights. As an example, the Belmont mast at 1,150ft (351m) is UK’s tallest broadcasting structure. The 1,050ft Eiffel Tower in Paris looks small in comparison. And the mast stands head and shoulders above both the 404ft Salisbury Cathedral spire and the 450ft Blackpool Tower in the UK.

We built new masts in five separate locations and decommissioned 80 former low-power digital TV sites – on top of decommissioning the 1,154 analogue systems. We put in place a new transmission network fit for the 21st century. And we demonstrated our capabilities in delivering critical national infrastructure.
The successful digital switch over is a testament to our continuing role in forming and connecting modern society. It has supported our vision to be central to every vital connection that people make, every day. Always.

Key facts:

  • Digital switch over brought digital terrestrial TV to homes across the length and breadth of the UK
  • We invested 1,200 man-years of work over a five-year period
  • We built new masts in five separate locations 
  • We decommissioned 80 former low-power digital TV sites and 1,154 analogue systems
  • We recycled more than 90% of the waste incurred as a result of the decommissioning programme
  • At 1,150ft (351m), the newly installed the Belmont mast is 100ft taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris

“The project is on-time and has run brilliantly smoothly. Switching to digital TV provides people with more channels while freeing up valuable spectrum.”

“The digital switch over was an amazing engineering and technical feat and a fantastic story of British success. The UK has an outstanding record of producing incredible television. Freeview is the platform of choice across the UK and the investment we made will ensure it continues to be relevant for the next twenty years.”

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