Why do LTE and 5G signals interfere with TV reception?

It must be really hard being on the FCC. It’s very easy for those of us on the outside to make fun of government. After all, it barely seems to work most of the time. Still, I have to imagine that working at the FCC must be like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle while sailing on choppy seas. Everything is constantly moving and fitting the pieces together must be darn near impossible.

See, there was a time when broadcasting was simple. Radio broadcasting took up two fairly small chunks of space. TV took up two fairly large chunks of space. What was left, the area below 50MHz and above 900MHz, (less the AM range which is pretty small) that was for special purposes like governments, aviation, and hobbyists. It probably seemed 40 years ago like there was room for every possible broadcast you might ever want.

Well, that’s all changed.

It started with things like CB radio and garage door openers and microwave ovens (yes, they broadcast too, that’s how they cook the food.) The FCC carved out chunks of space for those things to broadcast, and that wasn’t hard. Then came cordless phones and Wi-Fi. Things got a little harder. The real challenge, though, was cell phones. When you have millions of people trying to use mobile radio transmitters, you have to figure out where those broadcasts are going to take place.

Since TV broadcasters didn’t need all 81 channels they had, the FCC started to take away channels and use those frequencies for other things. Channels 70-83 went first, and are used largely for voice communications and some data. Then, as TV went digital, the FCC took away channels 52-69 to deal with the overwhelming demand for cellular data. Then, about a decade later, they took away channels 37-51. That’s where things got a little funky.

While some larger and more powerful antennas could do pretty well with channels 70-83, most couldn’t, but most antennas put up before 2009 do a great job picking up channel 52, which just so happens to be where a lot of LTE communication takes place. The strong signals in the 698-705MHz range can overpower distant TV signals and confuse your TV’s tuner. The same is true of the 617-698MHz band where some carriers put their 5G signals. That’s a problem.

The solution

The solution is not just to design antennas to pull in only channels 7-51 (those are the only channels in wide use now) but to actively filter out channels 52 and above with a special device. An antenna that’s designed to filter out those higher frequencies will let your TV work properly and give you the best chance of getting those hard-to-get distant channels.

Of course, I’d love it if you checked out the antennas and amplifiers available at Solid Signal, especially the Televes products which have been specifically designed to filter out US LTE and 5G frequencies. They’re the answer to your cell-phone interference problems, plain and simple.

The burden of cell phone broadcasts

At one time, we were all very worried about how 5G and LTE were going to affect over-the-air reception. The good news is that it hasn’t been as much of a problem as we originally thought. In order to have issues, you have to be one of those people who use an over-the-air antenna as well as being quite close to a cell phone tower. Most folks don’t have that problem. However, for those who do, there are options.

For now, cell phone companies don’t use the 600MHz frequencies as much as they could be. AT&T, for example, puts their 5G on their 850MHz bands. But that will change as demand for 5G continues to rise. Still, the effect on consumers might not be as much as we originally thought.

If you do need LTE filtering, check out the Televes antennas I linked to above, or call us at 888-233-7563 and we’ll show you how we can help you with custom solutions. Shop at Solid Signal today!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.