Analog TV ceases transmission in UK, freeing up airwaves for juicy LTE

Analog TV broadcasts have been shut off in the UK, marking the final stages of the digital switchover and freeing up valuable spectrum for further 4G LTE roll-out. The signal broadcast milestone is the culmination of half a decade of handover, with Northern Ireland the last remaining hold-out; transmissions there ceased at midnight local time, the BBC reports, ending 80 years of analog television. However, the potential for high speed data is probably enough to assuage any sadness.

UK carriers have been chomping at the bit to repurpose the swathes of spectrum until now being used for analog TV, with the frequencies ideal for LTE services. That sense of urgency has only increased in recent months, after EE - a combination of carriers T-Mobile UK and Orange – revealed it planned to jump ahead and launch its own LTE service at the end of this month.

EE has hit an unexpected stumbling block with the news of its first LTE tariffs, which the carrier seemed to expect – with the inclusion of free film rentals, cloud backup, and more – would be broadly welcomed by speed-hungry consumers, but which in fact met with disappointment. The tariffs may offer higher speeds and unlimited calls/texts, but in some cases the data allowances are uncompetitive in comparison to rival 3G carriers.

Nonetheless, EE has an advantage in the marketplace and it's one its competitors aren't happy with; adding salt to the wound is the fact that the best-selling iPhone 5 is only available in LTE form on EE in the UK. The same is true of the 4G versions of the new iPad with Retina Display 4th-gen and iPad mini, announced yesterday.

Exactly how long it will take to repurpose the analog TV frequencies for LTE is unclear, though Vodafone and others have indicated their services could launch in Spring 2013.

[Image credit Stephen Coles]