BBC Confirms COM7 Closure Plans

With the limited coverage temporary Freeview (terrestrial TV) multiplex COM7 closing at the end of this month (June 2022), the BBC has now confirmed its plans for its high definition (HD) channels on the multiplex.

BBC Four HD, BBC News HD, and CBeebies HD are currently distributed on the COM7 multiplex. As yet, no dates have been given, but two of these will migrate to another multiplex.

The BBC have two multiplexes of their own, know as BBC A and BBC B (or PSB1 and PSB3). BBC A is used to transmit all of the BBCs standard definition channels, alongside national and local/regional BBC radio channels. The BBC are currently prohibited from renting out spare capacity to other broadcasters.

BBC B can be opened up to other broadcasters, and the BBC currently uses this multiplex to broadcast core HD services from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, as well as broadcasting one or two standard definition channels.

The BBC have managed to find enough capacity on the BBC B multiplex for one full 24 hour HD video stream. CBeebies HD and BBC Four HD time share, with the former being available during the day, and the latter taking over in the evenings at 7pm. With these two channels sharing the same video stream, both can be accommodated on the new space found on the BBC B multiplex.

At the time of writing, some details are limited, but what can be confirmed is that CBeebies HD and BBC Four HD will now have a wider coverage area, with the BBC B multiplex being available from all main and relay Freeview transmitters. Theoretically, anyone with compatible HD equipment (eg. Freeview Play, Freeview HD, or DVB-T2 marked devices), will be able to access the two channels once the migration takes place.

BBC News HD will close on Freeview, presumably at the same time as the final closure of the COM7 multiplex, but will continue to broadcast on other platforms such as satellite. The other assumption at this stage is that all existing BBC B channels will continue broadcasting unchanged. No other details are yet available for other channels affected by the COM7 closure.

COM7 Closure Implications

The temporary terrestrial (Freeview) multiplex COM7 is set to close in June, to allow for the frequencies to be used for mobile phone networks. The frequency is one of those in the 700 MHz band that has now largely been cleared for %G mobile phone use, with the closure of COM7 to complete the process.

This will mean some Freeview viewers will lose some channels. I say some, as COM7 currently broadcasts to a limited area, and by using the DVB-T2 transmission method is only available those with compatible equipment (usually branded Freeview HD or Freeview Play).

COM7 currently broadcasts a mix of HD (high definition) and standard definition channels, largely HD simulcasts and plus 1 timeshifts. However, Freesports, Now 80s, That’s TV (UK version), ‘pop-up’ temporary service That’s Music, Forces TV, and the recently moved Together TV are all ‘unique’ to this multiplex.

In total, some viewers may lose up to 15 channels, on the assumption that no channels will be re-accommodated on other multiplexes. Exact changes are yet to be revealed (or at least to reach me), so the exact number of closures may change.  There is not enough spare capacity to accommodate all services on other multiplexes, so at least some will close.

It is up to the channel owners and transmitter network providers to decide who gets available vacant capacity. There is only one remaining DVB-T2 multiplex (BBC B/PSB3), and that is current full. This means the HD simulcasts will close, but may appear in the future if an existing multiplex converts to DVB-T2.

That leaves the standard definition channels, of which 3 are time shift versions of existing channels so are unlikely to be retained. That’s Music is a pop-up service, so will also close, leaving 6 channels needing capacity. It is unlikely that there is enough national capacity to keep all 6 on-air.

Time will tell if any of the services affected by the COM7 closure will continue broadcasting on Freeview, but most are available on other platforms such as satellite which are unaffected by the terrestrial changes.

Correction: Court TV Did Not Replace Together TV+1

Page last updated on February 27th, 2021 at 02:02 am

Correcting the previous post, information from another source confirms that Court TV was added as an additional service to Freeview multiplex COM7, and did not replace Together TV +1.

Court TV can be found on Freeview channel no. 89, with Together TV +1 remaining on 83.

Further Update: Together TV +1 is currently broadcasting as a placeholder/information slate, and is not currently showing programmes. Full closure is a likely possibility.

Court TV Will be on COM7

Following the previous article, it has now been confirmed that Court TV will replace Together TV +1 on Freeview.

The channel, which joins Freeview tomorrow (15th February 2021), will be broadcast on the remaining temporary multiplex COM7. This means coverage will be restricted, with around 75% of UK households able to receive the channel.

Additionally, the COM7 multiplex uses the newer DVB-T2 standard, meaning only HD, YouView or Freeview Play devices can access the service.

In time, the channel may move to one of the permanent commercial multiplexes, which have an increased coverage of around 90%. Court TV is also available on the Sky and Freesat satellite platforms.