The UK’s analogue TV signal death is almost complete. Many rural areas lost the signal a long time ago and London will see it disappearing today.

O2 has highlighted the end of this signal’s era by pointing to newer technologies and a trial run of it’s 4G network.

Since December 2011 the provider has been running an urban network trial. It says that its 4G network achieved data speeds of up to 150Mbps and that more regularly users experienced around 20 to 50Mbps, which is still a lot faster than current 3G rates.

The Register this morning astutely points out that the trial was run with only 1000 people based around London’s Docklands, where the O2 arena is based, and the West End.

It adds that this trial is less likely to be about speed and more to “test customer authentication and cell handoff on the LTE network, in conjunction with the existing 2G and 3G technologies, and we understand that has (more importantly) gone well. Next up will be handing off between networks, with the test infrastructure remaining in place.”

map520 UK turns off analogue TV but O2 says theres always 4G

O2s figures for this trial appear to be impressive, the company says that “for businesses, cloud-based services will be revolutionized, 40MB files can be downloaded on the move in a matter of seconds” and “most active trail members have been using 200GB per month using just a Samsung dongle or personal mifi hotspot”.

However, most of us have experienced the frustration of reading “up to” before a proposed data speed offering and realised that these incredible rates of movement rarely appear as a daily service.

The hopes surrounding a hyper-fast 3G launch crashed into reality when we all realised that this would not quite be the sci-fi future we had dreamt of for mobile data access. But then we easily take for granted the tools that we have and soon forget the squeal and lag of a 56k modem on dial up. Remember when that seemed miraculous too?

White noise and new toys

O2 does have a point in noting that turning off the analogue signal will free up the airwaves for the launch of 4G. More of us will be able to access faster broadband over mobile in the UK following the spectrum action in 2013. But for many this will not be replacing the old-school delights of analogue TV.

The BBC has a lovely slide show entitled “Ceefax: A love letter“. For those who are not familiar with the retro 8bit stylings of the news information service on UK television, it provided a wealth of information in eye watering colours on a black backdrop and was a valuable source of information for many people right up until the digital switch over.

Another issue relating to the digital switch over is that not everyone has a set up that can access the new signal. In order to make the switch, viewers will be required to either buy a new digitally enabled television or purchase a ‘Freeview box‘, an unwelcome expense for those less able to afford these new items.

It won’t be long until we forget television that took ten minutes to “warm up” and closed with a white dot at the centre of its screen entirely, but for now, the sense of nostalgia for the old technology that provides mass entertainment to millions across the UK is reminding many of us of how much things have changed.

whitenoise UK turns off analogue TV but O2 says theres always 4G