UK completes switchover, readies for dividend auction

The UK has completed its eight-year long digital switchover process with the switch-off of analogue transmissions in Northern Ireland today.

John Cresswell, CEO of transmission services provider Arqiva was joined at Belfast’s Divis transmitter site by Olympic pentathlete Mary Peters to turn off the last remaining analogue transmitter.

UK media and communications regulator Ofcom has welcomed the successful completion of digital switchover and said that the way is now clear for the process of auctioning digital dividend spectrum to enable the delivery of 4G mobile services.

Ofcom will begin the process of auctioning digital dividend spectrum at the end of this year.

“The UK’s switchover to digital has been a huge success. Not only has is created more TV choice for consumers, it has also freed up vital capacity that will be used to deliver mobile broadband services to 98% of cities, towns and villages across the UK,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “Now that switchover is complete, Ofcom is looking forward to delivering the 4G auction as the next step in delivering new higher speed mobile broadband services.”
The completion of switchover in Northern Ireland marked the end of an eight-year process to migrate UK terrestrial broadcasting to digital.

Ofcom cited BARB figures to show that TV viewing had increased from three hours 34 minutes in 2002 to four hours today, while the number of channels broadcast in 2002 was 236, compared with 523 today. The average number of TV sets per household, however, has fallen from 2.03 in 2002 to 1.92 today.

In 2012, according to Ofcom’s technology tracker, 70% of UK homes owned an HD-ready TV set, while 5% own a Smart TV. Since 2012, 2.9 million Smart TV sets have been sold, and in the first quarter of 2012, sales represented one fifth of total TVs sold. According to Ofcom, among owners of Smart TVs, 65% said they had used the internet connection on their TV.