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Freeview testing hints that predicted 4G apocalypse may be false alarm

The Great British 4G switch-on could go ahead with a minimal disruptive impact this summer, after apocalyptic predictions of large-scale TV signal interference have been contradicted by initial testing.

Early-stage trials conducted in March by the at800 group in the West Midlands revealed only limited disruption to Freeview services – out of the 22,000 homes tested in and around Cradley Heath and Rowley Regis, only 15 reported signal problems related to the activation of a 4G mast in the area.

Due to the close proximity of the 800MHz 4G spectrum to the UK's Freeview signal, it was feared that sending the new-generation frequency live would wreak havoc on Hollyoaks viewing across the land. However, the first round of test results have provided cause for cautious optimism, ahead of more extensive evaluations in areas with a higher population density and more crowded airwaves.

"This was a useful, small-scale test. Further extensive evaluation will occur during April and May as masts are switched on for tests across larger urban areas," commented Simon Beresford-Wylie, chief executive of at800.

The news will no doubt warm the hearts of the UK's aspiring 4G mobile network operators, who have a cumulative £180 million invested in a fund dedicated to providing free signal boosters including complimentary installation to homes affected by 4G rollout - the fewer homes affected, the more dosh will trickle back to the firms' coffers.

Initial predictions posited that 4G could disrupt TV reception for up to two million homes. If accurate, that would have seen at least 120 signals interfered with as a result of the initial trial - a figure considerably higher than the 15 adverse impacts actually noted.

The at800 group is a joint venture set up by Three, Vodafone, EE, and O2 to probe the impact of 4G rollout on digital TV signals. At present, EE is the UK's sole purveyor of 4G mobile services, with the other networks expected to join the party later this year.