If your electricity bill has gone up in the last 12 months, spare a thought for Arqiva, the company behind the transmitter masts that power the UK’s terrestrial TV and radio networks.
It’s previous fixed rate deal ended in March, resulting in a 230% hike in the unit cost of power, according to the company’s latest financial report.
The days of switching off transmitters overnight to save electricity are long gone, with most channels running services through the night.
The nature of digital TV and radio means there’s at least several channels running a comprehensive schedule through the night on most multiplexes.
However, it’s interesting to note that many mobile networks – some of which operate via the same masts as digital TV services – are turning off sites, reducing power and/or bandwidth during the night, as they grapple with rising costs.
As a result, it’s possible that your mobile signal switches to a different mast after midnight, or the available bandwidth is reduced – a move that won’t affect most users as there’s less demand overnight, when users tend to be at home and connected to a local Wi-Fi connection, or even asleep and not using data!
Some mobile connections are more energy intensive than others. That’s one of the reasons why 3G is being retired. Vodafone says just sending a terabyte of data via 5G uses 7% of the energy used to send the same amount of data on 3G.
While it might be tempting to think that closing TV masts down, perhaps relay sites, would be a good way of saving energy, these masts could form the bedrock of a future 5G Broadcast network. That’s something engineers in a number of countries are looking at, with trials already underway in places.
The current network of main and relay transmitter sites could create a mesh network covering most of the UK, so it wouldn’t be an ideal time now to cut the number of relay sites, as it may be difficult to gain planning permission again.
As 5G is more energy efficient, adopting 5G Broadcast may allow the likes of Arqiva to bring down their power bill. Surely good news for their accountants.
PICTURED: Divis transmitters. COPYRIGHT: Nathan Dane.