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4G won't interfere with nearby devices, Ofcom assures

Ofcom has ruled that 4G networks won't interfere with nearby devices such as personal alarms and wireless mics.

Good news! Your data-guzzling 4G phone won't ruin your neighbour's podcast or leave them gasping for air on their living room floor. Ofcom has investigated whether 4G networks would interfere with other devices such as personal alarms and wireless mics, and found they won't cause problems.

Concerns arose because the frequency that allows phones to talk to base stations nestles close to the frequency reserved for short-range devices, such as personal alarms and headphones for those with hearing problems. Other devices broadcasting at 863MHz to 865MHz and higher that could be susceptible to interference include RFID tags and wireless microphones.

Radio signals can leak into neighbouring bands, which is known as 'out of band' -- but Ofcom reckons 4G phones are designed in such a way as to avoid significant OOB leakage, and won't interfere with nearby devices on similar frequencies. Phones don't transmit continuously to conserve battery juice, and 4G mobiles are no exception. That minimises the amount of time 4G phones pump out radio signals that could interfere with other devices.

We're all looking forward to 4G, but it seems not everybody will get away without the new technology banjaxing their existing kit: it's feared 4G could affect millions of televisions, requiring them to be fitted with special filters.

Those using Digital Terrestrial Television or Freeview could be affected, with those living closest to transmitter towers expected to be the worst affected. But fear not, for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has set aside £180m to pay for a filter for anyone affected.

We're still some way off 4G in this country, although there have been successful trials. Ofcom will later this year auction off the spectrum to be used for 4G, with the first fruits of that feeding phones next year.

In the meantime, Ofcom has to decide whether to let Orange and T-Mobile -- which are part of one company, Everything Everywhere, since their merger in 2010 -- convert some of their existing 2G spectrum to 4G before the auction. That plan is understandably unpopular with rival networks.

When 4G does arrive, it'll provide us with faster mobile data while out and about. And the signals travel further, so it'll bring a decent Internet connection to areas ill-served by current 3G or broadband. Press play on our video below to see the impact of 4G in rural areas:

Are you excited about 4G? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.