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Analogue TV disappears from UK

76 years of television history in the UK came to an end this week when the analogue TV signal was switched off in Northern Ireland. It completed the UK’s five-year digital switchover process, at a cost of more than £1bn, which began in 2007 and was first mooted in 1999.

Digital UK, the body responsible for co-ordinating the switchover and information campaign that accompanied it, said it had delivered on time and under budget. “Clearly television is a very popular thing and getting it wrong would have been very public,” said David Scott, chief executive of Digital UK.

The switchover process was assisted by advances in small screen technology, not just from analogue to digital but flat screen, high definition and 3D sets which encouraged people to buy new TVs quicker than they once might.

The switchoff of the analogue signal has opened up the airwaves for the fourth generation of mobile phone services, or 4G, which is expected to arrive in the UK by July 2013 and will raise up to £4bn for the government.

The cost of switchover to the government, licence fee payers and commercial broadcasters was put at more than £1bn, including a £630m bill for converting more than 1,000 transmitters across the UK from analogue to digital.

The next big switchover task will be converting UK’s radio listening to digital. According to estimates, the number of analogue radio sets that would be rendered redundant, is at around 100 million.