Receiving Freeview in the Republic post-DSO in Northern Ireland

lawhec's picture

If you are receiving analogue television from across the border in Northern Ireland (BBC1, BBC2, UTV, Channel 4, possible Five in a few places), you should be aware (if you're not already) that these transmissions will cease in about two years time (at the time of writing, shutdown likely to be the second half of 2012) to be replaced with high-powered digital services, known in the UK as Freeview.

The question then lies as to if the current aerial pointing into the North will be good enough? Fortunately there is a "rough" test that was developed by engineers at BBC Research & Development using teletext to see if your current aerial should be suitable after the analogue signals are closed down.

As of this moment, none of the main transmitters in the North nor any of its relays except one should require a new aerial installation for this switch over although some of the relays are moving to new frequencies within the same aerial group (Kilkeel and Gortnalee are two that may affect viewers in the Republic), so to test wherever your analogue reception is strong enough to receive at least some DTT services from N.I. after the analogue signals are terminated, do the following...

*** Please note, this test is no good if your analogue signals are coming from a "deflector" ***

  1. Go to BBC1 and press the text button on your remote.
  2. Go to page 284.
  3. You will get either one of two subpages, either some instructions similar to this or a page of white squares. The latter is what we want...
  4. If your page of white blocks has continuous rows with no blocks missing, then future digital reception should be OK. If the page of white blocks has a few missing rows, but no missing blocks in visible rows then this should be OK too. If there are missing blocks, check to see how many are missing - between one and three, post switchover reception may be suspect but four or more especially so. These are indicators that future DTT reception is likely to be unreliable.
  5. Conduct the same test by going back to step 1, tuning in to BBC2, then UTV and finally Channel 4.

If your analogue pictures tend to very in signal strength e.g. very clear some days, snowy on others, do the test when they're at their snowiest.

To give you a visual clue at to have some idea of what to expect, the two pictures below will show you. The first picture, tuned to BBC1, shows the test being passed with flying colours. The second picture, tuned to BBC2 (and if you notice, less than a minute after the first) shows the test failing with numerous missing blocks.



  • If all four channels come back with no blocks missing, reception for the three main PSB multiplexes at least (Which will include a DVB-T2 multiplex featuring HD broadcasts) should be OK when the analogue transmissions are replaced with digital transmissions.
  • If some channels seem OK, but one or two have missing blocks, you may get away with your current set up but you won't know for sure until the switch over occurs. You might only get some multiplexes and not others.
  • If all four channels give missing white blocks, your aerial system might (probably will) need to be checked. If you are not capable of doing this yourself, get a competent professional who knows what they're doing.

If the last case applies to you, it may be better value to consider a free-to-air satellite setup for UK channels as a more reliable or cost effective measure unless in the past your N.I. analogue reception gave good pictures and your current aerial has disintegrated e.g. bits missing from the aerial, water may have got into the cable.

It's impossible to say 100% over the internet wherever you should be able to get Freeview after the analogue signals are turned off in Northern Ireland, southern viewers don't have the additional test check of Digital UK's postcode coverage database. Nor does this test account for possible interference that may occur in a few places when Saorview gets rolled out. But trying the above teletext test is the best available right now.