Will your TV be obsolete soon?

Updated: 

TV store

If you're fighting the relentless pressure to spend a fortune upgrading your TV every five minutes, then there's some bad news in store: Ofcom is considering changing the way that Freeview channels are broadcast - which could force you to upgrade anyway.

But why are they doing this, and what does it mean for you?


Why?

An Ofcom spokesperson told AOL that it was considering changes in order to deal with two issues. The first is that we're all using the internet far more than we used to. It's not just one clunky old computer sitting in the spare room any more. We have smart phones, smart TVs, tablets and multiple computers dotted around the home.

By 2019, there are expected to be up to 50 billion devices wirelessly connected to the internet, and there's only a limited supply of spectrum available.

At the same time, there's a growing international consensus about the spectrum that mobile broadband like 4G should be broadcast on. At the moment, it happens to be the spectrum that Freeview is being broadcast on. The issue is that if we go in a different direction from the rest of the world, there's a risk that no-one will produce any kit for UK users.

Impact

Ofcom is therefore considering a range of options - one of which would be to shift Freeview to another part of the spectrum. For the majority of people, it would simply mean retuning the channels on your TV or set-top-box. However, for others it could mean having to buy a new aerial or make changes to your existing one. At the moment it doesn't know how many people would have to make these changes: the spokesperson suggested it could be just under 10% of people.

Any switch would come after 2018, and Ofcom is keen to point out that no decisions have been made as to whether or not a switch will happen.

New TV?

If there is a change to Freeview, it might not stop there. Ofcom told AOL that over time the technology has developed, so that it would be possible to transmit a better standard using less airwaves. If there was a change to the way Freeview was transmitted, it could take the opportunity to switch to the better technology at the same time.

The problem, again, is that the new system would not be compatible with some older Freeview televisions and set-top boxes. There's a risk, therefore, that an enormous number of these gadgets would be destined for the scrap heap.

Ofcom is at pains to point out that no firm decisions have been made, and that it is exploring a number of options. One would be to broadcast using the new system and the old one side-by-side for a number of years, to wait for the incompatible boxes to get old enough to fail - so people would be replacing them anyway.

We will have to wait to see whether the brave new world promised by Ofcom is going to mean better quality TV, and more internet capability - without it forcing us to join the legions of people spending a small fortune upgrading their TV.