Upgrade renders set-top boxes obsoleteThousands of people had to buy new equipment

14 August 2008

Person watching TV

We've given the Freesat a onceover in our lab

Thousands of people had to invest in new digital television equipment in order to keep watching their favourite programmes after a Freeview upgrade rendered 1% of its set-top boxes obsolete.

Freeview warned customers about the three month upgrade work through local newspapers and radio.

It estimated that 230,000 of the 23 million Freeview boxes sold to date would no longer work.

Digital switchover

These were early models, made before the industry-standard digital tick logo came into effect in May 2006 to show consumers which equipment was designed to work through the digital switchover.

Rob Farmer, Freeview's director of marketing and communications, said 1,200 calls had been made to Freeview and manufacturers - far lower than expected - during the upgrading process, which ended last week.

'It seems the majority of the older models were no longer being used or had been replaced,' he said.

'Having said that, we have done everything we can to help those people who have been affected.'

Freeview platform

DMOL, the company which manages technical changes to the Freeview platform, carried out changes to the network region-by-region between the end of May and August 5.

In a statement distributed ahead of the work, Freeview said: 'The majority of homes will be totally unaffected but some early-manufactured digital boxes will stop working and viewers will need to replace their equipment to continue receiving the Freeview service.'

Some models made by Bush, Daewoo, Labgear and Portland and Triax were affected.

Freeview said the upgrade work to the UK's 80 main transmitters was necessary to enable them to send increasing amounts of data to people's set-top boxes.

In 2002, when Freeview launched, there were around 30 TV channels.

Tick logo

Freeview now has 48 channels, along with interactive services and digital radio stations.

Daewoo commercial manager Scott Purdom said the affected models were 'very early products' made in 2002.

'We believe it's a tiny proportion,' he said. 'Our call centre was busy but most customers seem to understand that changes are coming and that this technology is necessary.'

Mr Purdom said people were advised to look for the digital tick logo on products and pointed out that it was possible to buy up-to-date digital boxes for under £20.

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