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Freeview signals: too much of a good thing is bad for you
If you have a high-gain aerial or use signal amplifiers, it is quite common to find that the high-power digital signals provided after switchover will overload your Freeview equipment - and can appear to be "weak signals".
Most people will experience nothing but simplicity and joy with the digital switchover - the process that turns off the old five high power analogue signals, and the existing six low power digital services and replaces them with six new high power Freeview multiplexes.
For those with problems, there are generally three issues.
Eliminating other possible problems first
The first is that very, very old equipment will not function with the digital signals split into 6,817 sub-signals, as it was only designed to work with 1,705 sub-signals. This is known as the "8k mode issue" - see TVs and boxes that do not support the 8k
Transmitters have much more digital power after switchover
At most transmitters, the digital signals after switchover are considerably more powerful than before. This was because when the analogue and digital services ran together, the digital services were kept low to prevent appearing as snowy interference on television sets using analogue reception.
Here is an example, from Sutton Coldfield, of how the signals change at switchover:
4,000kW of analogue signals are turned off, and the digital services increase in total power from 48kW to 1,200kW - that is an increase of 25 times in numerical terms, also know as +14dB. (The reduction of -7dB from the analogue strength is intended - the digital services require less power to cover the same number of homes).
This large increase in power should cause no effect for most people. A stronger signal does not increase the picturequality (you need Freeview HD for that), sound levels - the only effect should be that more homes that are further away from the transmitter mast can receive a stable digital signal.
High gain aerials and signal boosters
However, many people have been tempted into buying one both high gain aerials and signal boosters.
High-gain aerials were very suitable for places where the Freeview signal before switchover was very weak indeed, but if you have one of these and you are located closer to the transmitter, you will probably now have a signal overload.
Generally speaking, signal booster devices are never really much use for Freeview reception, and much of the time they actually amplify the interference more than they do the signal, causing reception to get worse, not better.
How to tell if you have too much signal
There are almost as many ways for a Freeview box to display the "signal strength" and "signal quality" as there are types of Freeview box. Here are some of them:
Speaking generally, there will be two indicators:
One is signal strength - this shows the power level of the signal entering the Freeview box. Often "0" is the lowest and "10" the highest, but sometimes it can be a percentage, sometimes coloured boxes and so on.
The signal strength should be around 75% - more than this indicates too much signal.
The other measure is the signal quality and this is much more important to high-quality Freeview viewing. Any measures that increase this to the maximum will provide for uninterrupted viewing, lower values will result in "bit errors" that cause the picture to freeze and the sound to mute out.
One problem with over powerful signals is the overload can sometimes show as a low signal because the receiver circuitry will enter a "blown fuse" state to protect itself.
How to deal with too much signal
First, if you have a booster or amplifier - remove it from your system. Don't just unplug the power, as this will result in no signal getting though the device.
If you can't just disconnect the outputcable and connect it to the input cable, you might need a coax female-female coupler to connect two male connectors together.
If you don't have a booster or amplifier, you might have to fit an attenuator onto the cable. They come in two types, either a "single attenuator", around five pounds, or a variable attenuator, for around ten pounds. The variable sort has a knob that can be turned to select the required level of signal dampening.
Your comments are always welcome. Please use the form below to add your thoughts or questions to this page. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
Mike Dimmick Tuesday 20 September 2011 6:14PM
Canukinuk: Check whether it's a model that uses GuidePlus rather than the standard Freeview EPG. If you're having trouble getting Multiplex A - the information is attached to the bid.tv channel - this may explain the problem.
You might see if it's possible to put the TV in 'standard Freeview' mode.
Otherwise, if you're experiencing break-up on the BBC channels and the other affected channels, but not on other channels, it could be too much signal (see above). However, all multiplexes carry regular Freeview EPG data for all other multiplexes, though the services on the same multiplex are prioritised.
Some equipment gets confused if there are multiple copies of the same channels. Ensure you do a full retune/full reset/first-time installation/default setting/'virgin mode'/reinstall all channels, to clear out everything it previously thought it knew. If you still have duplicates after that, see Digital Region Overlap.
Signal quality on freeview film 4 channel,
sheffield area. I have very good signal strength but very poor qualty. so much so that my LG DVDHD recorder will not pick up the signal. The Tv is sony Bravia.
We live near Reading, on top of the Chilterns. Since the Oxford switchover we have had poor reception, BBC1 particularly but also other channels, e.g Yesterday. Our digibox says it is picking up West Midlands BBC on 1 and 2 - signal strength 70% but quality varying from 0 to 50%. On 800 it says Oxford and Bucks and the signal quality is better, with a similar strength. How can I stop it picking the wrong transmitter?
Peter Robinson: To get over the problem you first of all have to blank out all the channels stored, this usually done by re-scanning without the aerial being connected, although a factory re-set is the guaranteed way of removing them. Then BEFORE reconnecting the aerial start another rescan, immediately watching the channels as they rise in the progress bar, and as soon as you see them passing Ch50 reconnect the aerial and that will load Oxfords multiplexes, rather than what I suspect were previously from Sutton Coldfield.
If by any chance BBC1 / ITV1 doesn't load properly then you could be receiving a signal that's too strong, but only a post code would assist in determining this possibility.
bushistush Friday 30 September 2011 9:59PM Wallingford
I live in Oxford area, have always been able to recieve all channels, and still can since the switchover. signal strength / quality is about 70 / 75 for all multiplexes. The problem is my tv now crashes, usually after a few seconds or when accessing epg or changing channel, but only when on PSB2
D3+4 multiplexchannel 4, more 4 etc. All other channels on all other multiplexes are fine. The TV is a bush IDLCD26TV07HD. I have wiped channels, retuned, reset the tuner, but still crashes. Is there anything I can do? Do Bush send out over-air updates...?
bushistush: Although not having personal experience of this model, I am aware that these models (made by Beko) are notorious for this type of problem, and is reportedly caused by a fault on the power board that supplies the memory channel chip.
In other words, its not something a user can rectify, nor is it connected to any switchover that may have taken place.
bushistush Saturday 1 October 2011 9:00AM Wallingford
Thanks jb38 - yes, I am aware that this type of problem seems common with this particularly cheap brand - but it seems strange to me that every channel on the PSB2 D3+4 multiplex will cause the TV to crash, whereas no other channel on any other multiplex causes any problem. The PSB2 D3+4 uses a frequency plumb in the middle of the others, and uses the same encoding / tranmission mode - is there any other factor that could differentiate PSB2 D3+4 from the other multiplexes?
I appreciate that it is more than likely some sort of bug / hardware fault that causes the tv to crash, but it seems clear that there must be some sort of difference with the PSB2 D3+4 multiplex as this is the only one causing a problem....
bushistush: Well the one thing where PSB2 is different is by it having a negative offset on its transmission frequency, PSB1 being the opposite with a plus, and should the tuner be operating at a somewhat lower voltage than normal because of a power board defect (and the nature of problem will cause this) can result in the oscillator circuitry starting to act erratically which can cause crashing, as these type of circuits demand a proper stable supply.
This kind of effect can also manifest itself differently dependant on the signal strength being received, and if COM5/ ArqA doesn't do it even although it also has a negative offset, then that could be simply because its liable to be received at a signal strength with just enough of a difference not to cause the problem, as the signal strength of the incoming signal can also directly affect the oscillator operation, that being why a signal that's too strong can block reception, a common problem for people with larger aerials in areas close to transmitters that have switched to high power operation.
bushistush Sunday 2 October 2011 7:55AM Wallingford
Thanks jb38 - I'll do further testing on COM5/ ArqA and make sure this channel is as reliable as the channels without the negative offset. If COM5/ ArqA is ok do you think it might be worth trying an attenuator? Otherwise I guess I'll have to try repairing the power board... :(
bushistush: Yes! regarding an attenuator, as its quite possible that the signal you are receiving is a touch too strong as you are only 12 miles away from the transmitter, this of course being dependant on the aerial system used, and which I am unaware about.
Needless to say, "if" this incorporates any form of booster it should be removed.
Regarding attenuators, variable types are usually the best as they can be adjusted to exactly what's required which eliminates the "hit and miss" element of fixed devices, but if fixed around 6db should suffice as you only want the edge taken off the signal.
By the way, the board referred to is generally just replaced as a complete item, as its relatively inexpensive. (as far as I can remember about £12.00 or so)
bushistush: Another little point I forgot to mention is that some older devices do not like operating on negative offset channels, so "if" COM5/ArqA doesn't work properly either then there isn't really any cure for the problem unless Bush have any software updates for that model.
I only say this to avoid you carrying out unnecessary tests, that is as well as wasting money on an attenuator.
bushistush Sunday 2 October 2011 5:26PM Wallingford
Thanks for all the advice jb38 - I greatly appreciate it! I'm using a 20yr old roof aerial so not high gain wideband, and with a long cable. There's no booster. Even though, I suspect the signal strength may be too high as I used to get perfect reception before, and since full-power switchover bbc has shown a little bit of breakup occasionaly.
If the power board is only £12 then It might be worth getting, although a handful of capacitors would only be a quid or two, and a lot more fun to install! Haven't checked COM5/ArqA yet - but will let you know how I get on when I do...
Do you know if Bush could/would provide a software update, and how I might go about getting it? I'm loathed to phone there helpline...
btw, working on a sunday...?! Is this a volunteer site for enthusiasts? - I assumed it was provided by Freeview as part of their service...
bushistush: As far as the site goes, its a volunteer site owned and operated by Briantist (Brian Butterworth) and isn't as far as I know connected in any way with organisations such as Freeview, myself as a long term engineer involved with all aspects RF work (TX & RX) purely sharing ones knowledge as they say, as does most others involved, with my own job always having been my hobby, much to the annoyance of my wife by me always having sizeable pieces of equipment laying around for hours on end.
I know what you mean about being hesitant at contacting Bush, but unfortunately(?) I don't really have any shortcuts to them, and any enquiries on something like this would have be made in the same matter as yourself. But as far as the board is concerned though I would have a fish about on Google for stockists of Bush spares, but should time allow I might have a look myself and come back with a link should I find what's required.
On the issue of reception, if your tuners power board is defective then the reception of a stronger signal might cause verges of instability to be lurking around, but I doubt that your signal is too strong now you have reported that there isn't any type of booster being used.
bushistush Sunday 2 October 2011 9:30PM Wallingford
Well thanks again jb38 - It's a great site, and you've been more than helpful. Invaluable would be an understatement! :) Knowing there are sites like this, run by volunteers, goes some way to restoring my faith in humanity!
In terms of reception, I have now tested all channels on COM5/ArqA and they all work perfectly. I have also tested my set with a small indoor aerial, which I presume would be similar to using an attenuator with the roof aerial? My TV also crashed with this setup, only on PSB2 D3+4. Curious and curiouser... ah well, I'll look into fixing/replacing the power board. Or getting a decent TV! :)
bushistush: If it still crashes on PSB2 with the indoor aerial in "exactly" the same manner as before then it doesn't look very promising, because as you have said this will be giving a much lower signal to the tuner. The only reason I emphasised "exactly" is because an indoor aerial can make a signal break up even if there is no fault in existence with a TV / box, so this has to be kept in mind during evaluation of results.
Anyway, the sources of these power boards seems to be drying up with exception from suppliers who charge somewhat exorbitant prices for them, so capacitor replacement would be prove to be more cost effective.
On the link you will see a close up picture of the board, but click further to get a blown up view, and the capacitors concerned are C926 and the ones that surround it, although all should really be unsoldered and examined for electrolyte leaks, especially ones in the vicinity of heatsinks.
I don't think that clicking the link will activate it, so copy and paste it into your browser.
bushistush: Re: clicking on the link, just checked it and it does seem to activate on clicking, but please note that although the usual "click to view enlarged image" option isn't seen it will show as soon as you place the mouse pointer over the picture.
I live in north Suffolk and receive my signal from Talcolneston.In 2008 we had a new TV aerial installed (I believe it is a high gain one) invoiced as a category 2 and also fitted was a signal amplifier. From this one aerial we run two TV's and a DVD recorder (bought new in 2009) all with built in freeview receivers.Yesterday was phase one switchover day. I retuned our two TV's and our dvd recorder. Tonight we were watching Channel 4 on the main TV a Samsung when we lost picture and sound and similarly on some of the ITV channels too. BBC channels working OK. I tried our LG TV in the kitchen and it was receiving Channel 4. I then tried the DVD freeview receiver through the Samsung. WIt could receive channel 4 but not BBC channels. Each failed channel either gives us a blank dark screen with no message or a mesage stating weak signal. I intend to check all the receivers and retune them again tomorrow if I still have missing channels. Will this problem settle down or should I be doing something else?
MK Malc Saturday 19 November 2011 5:21PM Milton Keynes
We live in Milton Keynes MK5, so on the outskirts of Sandy Heath transmitter.
We have 100% quality on Mux1 and 0% quality on mux2 channels.
The only channels we have apart from mux1 are arqB.(e.g. ITV4)
Strangely, ITV1 was ok for a while after 2030 last night.
It's been like this for over a week and we are getting a little frustrated !!
The website says Sandy Heath receivers are liable to interruption, but it seems to have been a long time.
Any advice would be very welcome.
MK Malc Saturday 19 November 2011 5:34PM Milton Keynes
Just thought I'd add :
we have a booster, but signal strength is only 60% on all channels with it on.
When we tried to retune with the booster turned right down, ITV1 and the other mux2 channels disappeared completely.
We turned it up about half way to enable us to get ITV1 back, albeit not watchable.
Hope this helps with a diagnosis.
My parents have lost a couple of their freeview channels last week (Film 4 and Yesterday). They live in Colchester and prior to last week, they were able to recieve these channels. Any ideas why they would loose them and how it can be fixed?
They have retuned both their recorder and tv, and this happened at about the time the Sudbury transmitter was switched on.
We cannot get a tv signal atall on my daughters television. We have tried all sorts of aerials and Freeview boxes but to no avail. The signal wasn't great before the switchover, however, now we have no signal atall. We live in South Lanarkshire in Scotland (ML9 area). Any help would be appreciated.
I live in Hunstanton, North Norfolk (East Anglia). Almost unbelievably the only signal we get is from somewhere in Yorkshire and as a result we get Yorkshire local TV. As if that's not bad enough since switchover we have now lost channels like Yesterday et al. I despair and am now looking at SKY or FREESAT as the only way of receiving programming from my home region unless someone can offer a solution.
If you have lost Yesterday etc then it could be because you have a Group A aerial on Belmont. The commercial channels are not in Group A and as such that is probably why such an aerial is less sensitive to picking them up.
If you would like a fuller explanation, please let me know. Your post code might help give a more accurate prediction.
Mark: Have you tried receiving a signal from the King's Lynn relay which is sited at Sandringham? Mux BBCA for East Anglia is currently transmitted on C49- (due to change to C40 in 2013, date TBA). Aerial needs to point South and set for vertical polarisation.
Thanks for your replies, unfortunately I live in a flat and we have a communal aerial so upgrading or pointing it in a different direction would not be my decision although I will relate your comments to the powers that be at the next opportunity.
According to the information for the Belmont transmitter on this site COM5 CH53 & COM6 CH60 are being transmitted at the same power level of 4000 watts. I get 40% strength and 100% quality for COM5 and 20% strength and 0-10% quality for COM6 - surely some mistake?
North Norfolk is getting a raw deal, not only do we not get the programming for the region we live in, we can't receive all the Freeview channels(Yesterday, Film4, ITV4 etc.) because the transmitter is not up to the job.
Mark: One thing to be aware of is that Belmont was once (in the days of four-channel analogue) was group A only which means that it only used lower frequencies and that aerials that were installed for it were group A which means that they aren't as sensitive to the higher frequencies.
When Channel 5 came along, it was on C56 from Belmont at 50kW (versus 500kW for the other analogues). So you might have had another aerial fitted to receive it. If you didn't, then perhaps this would explain.
The only other thing I can think is that C60 from Sudbury is causing you interference, which, if it's the case, is ironic because many people in the Suffolk area can't pick it up.
Just brought a variable tv attenuator would this need to be placed before distrubution amp or at tv getting 85-95 sig strength showing on tv.Keep getting no signal at 1tv but have got signal at outher free view box`s. is this too much. on bellmont transmitter think the aeril is 52 elerment wide band. also had mast head amp disconected last year. Thank you carl. king`s lynn norfolk.
Can anyone help, I have a Freeview HD+ recorder with one of those funny little loop through situations at the back with a little jumper cable between RF out 1 (Aerial is connected to RF in 1) and RF in 2 (cable then goes from RF out 2 to my tv). However after a few days the picture has become jumpy and freezes. I have discovered that if I plug the aerial into RF in 1 and tyhen straight from RF out 1 to my TV the picture is crystal clear and no problems. It seems there is a massive loss of signal strength and quality as it goes through the second reciever (however the recording function requires this to be looped as originally set up). My question is would buying a more expensive Freeview+ HD recorder result in better quality or do I need to look at increasing my freeview signal strength?
Or could I supply two seperate signals one to each reciever in the box (rather than the second one getting its signal from the first one via the loop cable), as I have two working aerials on my roof at the moment.
Ian McPherson: What is the make and model of this HD recorder?
Also, what is your location, preferably post code, so we might check on the likely signal at your location? It would be useful to know what transmitter you are receiving from, or what direction your aerial is pointed in (the latter certainly requiring a location in order to determine the transmitter).
Ian McPherson: There is no reason why you can't use one aerial for each tuner in the box; that is the reason for having two inputs. That is, so that you can use different aerials on different transmitters for analogue and digital.
Of course, when analogue is switched off in your area, then you can disconnect the analogue tuner altogether.
We have recently got a new Sony TV (40HX723) with HD freeview, and live in Lichfield.
We have got a rooftop aerial (X Bow type) that has been there about 17 years.
We have full signal strength and quality but when watching HD channels on the TV, the picture goes black including the 'System Information' overlay if it is on. No problem when watching normal freeview channels or DVD etc.
We are only 5.5 miles from Sutton Coldfieldmast and aerial appears to be aligned correctly, and we have never had a problem before.
Could it be an aerial problem, or is the TV shop trying it on? I have also tested the TV on a different site with a new aerial install and get the same there as well.
TV shops threatening that we will have to pay if repair engineer comes out to TV and finds its the aerial!
Ian Podmore: On the basis that you are so close to a high power station, then the first thing to try must be an attenuator (as shown at the top of this page). I would get a variable one.
The shop you bought your TV from is (I assume) not responsible for your aerial installation. Thus, if someone comes out, then it is not surprising that they will charge if it is found that their product is not at fault.
We live approximately 10 miles from the Hannington transmitter which started switchover today. We can no longer receive any BBC channels on Freeview (which I understand are the first to be switched).
We have a regular digitalaerial in our loft connected to a multiway signal booster to allow us to run 6 TV sets from the one aerial. This has always worked fine in the past. I understand that the strength of the post-switchover signal may be responsible for the missing channels, but will it be sufficiently strong to feed multiple sets without a booster? Or could there be a different problem?
However, to answer your question, then yes, you should be able remove the booster from your system when the signals are all at full power - which will be today for the BBCA service, in two weeks for D3+4 and Freeview HD and on 18th April 2012 for the rest.
Thanks Briantist. I understand about loft aerials but, perhaps because we live on a hill and can SEE Hannington on a clear day, this has never been an issue before. Am I right in thinking that replacing the booster with a simple multi-way splitter is unlikely to work properly for all channels until after April 18th?
I live near Hindhead on the Surrey/Hampshire border and did a rescan last night on prompting. All channels are fine except the BBC channels (1,2,3,4, News 24 etc) on which the signal strength is good (c.75%) but the quality is low (10-20%) and the transmission is very jumpy and unwatchable. I have a high gain aerial...and booster (I think!).
Deb: If the booster is one that is connected to the aerial lead where it comes into your room, then remove it.
If, after doing this, you get no signal whatsoever on any channel, then perhaps it is not a booster, but a power supply for a booster which is located on the roof with the aerial. The reason you would get no signal in such circumstances is because the booster is still connected (on the roof) but is not powered (as you've removed its power supply).
Thanks for the (speedy) reply. So you are saying I should try to remove the booster from the 'circuit'?
I interpret your second para as detailing a permutation relevant when the booster power supply is in the house but the booster is on the roof with the aerial.
It still seems odd that this has happened on a day (14th) on which Hanningtone wasn't changing. I did a re-scan on the 8th/9th immediately after the first part of the Hannington change and all was ok.
Deb: You have narrowed down the source of the issue. I wouldn't be of the opinion that there is a fault with BT Visionbox just yet.
I'm not familiar with the BT Vision box, but in general terms I know that it connects to the internet either wirelessly (using wi-fi) or wired (using a networkcable, sometimes routed over mains cables using "Powerline" adaptors or similar).
If you are connected using wi-fi, try disabling the connection in the box's settings. If you are connected using a network cable, unplug the cable from the box and unplug it at the other end. If you have a Powerline adaptor adjacent to the BT Vision box, then unplug it from the mains and try the reception of TV channels on the BT Vision box.
It seems that the explanation is as follows:
(i) My aerial is pointing at the Midhurst transmitter (not yet gone through DSO) and there are engineering works on that transmitter which might explain the signal break up. It took several hours to realise I used Midhurst and not Hannington!
(ii) the upgrade of the Hannington transmitter has created 20 new BBC channels (800-820) which are not disupted and so can be used whilst the 'normal' BBC channels are less than perfect
I'm assuming that once the engineering works are complete at Midhurst the normal channels will return to full quality. And be even better once Midhurst has been through DSO.
(Re Vbox - mine is connected through adaptors not wi-fi)
Thanks for your input Dave. The above came out of a lengthy discussion with another on the BT forum.
Deb: I would suspect that the BBC channels in the 800s could in fact be the Midhurst ones.
Different pieces of equipment behave differently when they encounter duplicate services from adjacent transmitters.
On the automatic tuning scan, the new full strength BBC services from Hannington will be found before those of Midhurst which are on a higher frequency. *If* the BT Visionbox picks the strongest BBC services (rather than the first it finds), then *perhaps* that is why it has done what it's done (if it has put Hannington BBC One as logical channel 1 and Midhurst BBC One in the 800s).
The way to find out which you have is to look at the signal strength screen for the UHF channel number (most boxes give this information).
Go to BBC One. Hannington's is on channel 45 and Midhurst's is on channel 56 (to move to 55 on 29th February).
I understand that the BT Vision box doesn't allow manual tuning with is very poor. However, there is a possible workaround.
Hannington uses channels 39 to 47 (and this will be the case after it completes switchover). Midhurst uses channels 56 to 65 (which will be 50 to 62 after switchover).
The trick is to run the automatic tuning sequence with the aerial unplugged for all bit the frequency range that it is scanning Midhurst.
If it gives UHF channel numbers when it's scanning (they run 21 to 68) then plug it in after 47 has passed. If it doesn't give channel numbers and only gives a percentage progress, then plug it in at 57%.
The irony is that the message you received about new services referred to the BBC services from Hannington that had moved. Had the message been ignored, then there would probably have been no issue now.
It may or may not tell you to retune on 22nd February when Hannington completes switchover. If it does, then you should ignore it.
For Midhurst, retuning is required on the following dates:
1. 29th February: Switchover stage 1 BBC standard definition services move channel and go on full power (to the one previously occupied by BBC Two analogue).
2. 14th March: The rest of the digital services move and the other three analogue services are turned off.
3. October 2012 (date unpublished as yet): some services changed channel.
Throughout all this, when retuning your BT Vision box, plug the aerial in after it has scanned channel 47 or at 57% in order to pick up all its services.
hi, i have just moved to crystal palace, and my old tv and digi box were working ok. now i have have bought a new HD tv an cant get a reception on most channels and heavy pixelating on others, and am so tired of moving the ariel about that i dont even turn it on any more and beginning to regret the expense of buying a modern tv ! is there anything i can do that wont be expensive or involve climbing onto the roof ? !