Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Timing Looms Over Spectrum Repacking
As discussion continues surrounding the FCC's UHF spectrum repacking plan, issues surrounding the planning and timing of the process continue to cast a shadow over the goals of the plan.
The FCC's proposed rulemaking states that a three-year clock will start once the auction process is completed. However, there is no way of knowing how many stations will be affected until that time, which may make choosing that fixed window premature.
Since each broadcast location will have varying components and other restrictions, the process of changing over a particular station is something that cannot be modeled on a larger scale. Stations will need to replace or upgrade a number of systems, and in many cases even their broadcast antenna itself – which can be a five-week process.
The limiting factor that comes into play is the number of qualified tower crews, which – according to American Tower, is 14. Even if the crews took no holidays, the number of towers that could be replaced is capped at 434.
Magnifying that problem, in order to minimize issues such as co-channel interference, simply creating a post-auction transition plan may take up to a year – slashing the amount of time available.
Other lingering issues, such as international spectrum agreements with Canada and Mexico, and the inevitable zoning, architectural or space issues stations will face only add to the uncertainty.
The planning issues surrounding the move may eventually impact its overall effectiveness. The original goal of spectrum repacking was to recapture 128 MHz of television spectrum for wireless applications. Now, a more realistic goal seems to be 84 MHz, with the final results even less certain.
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