The FCC is repurposing critical communication spectrums.
Are you ready?

The engineers at Morrison Hershfield have the knowledge and experience to upgrade your towers to the latest specifications.

Fill out the form below to find out how we can assist with your tower upgrade.

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Anticipated Broadcast Antenna Upgrade Challenges

The repacking’s main hurdle is the aggressive scheduling.

However, while this is the most pressing challenge sited around the industry, with nearly all participants in agreement that the 39 month deadline is unrealistic, it is not the only challenge anticipated in the repacking. Significant analysis of the current landscape has been conducted by third parties as a way to advise the FCC and communicate these challenges, such as:

Limited Vendors for Broadcast Equipment.

Currently, the equipment manufacturing for broadcast towers is dominated by two players which represent the majority of the broadcast antenna market. Since the last repacking build out, broadcast equipment manufacturers have ramped down production.

The best estimates for the number of stations requiring new equipment upgrades ranges from 800-1,200. Even using the lower end of this range, current manufacturing capacity could still fall short. It is not anticipated that equipment manufacturers will scale production until known quantities of equipment are ready to order. When those orders are placed, they have communicated a window of 12 months to increase unit production to 3/4 capacity, and approximately an additional year to bring that capacity to full demand. Each unit will take 90-180 days for manufacture and testing.

However, before these time lines for production begin, preliminary design and equipment selection is required. Working closely with RF engineers and station personnel, manufacturers will determine the equipment necessary to meet station specific needs and precise performance requirements. At the current rates, it could take an entire year to complete this initial phase.

Limited Qualified Contractors and Engineers

Once the initial proposal stage is completed, and the equipment to be installed is identified, engineering consultants will need to be engaged to complete the required structural analysis on the towers. Considering some stations share the same tower, the repacking will touch 520-780 towers across the United States. As discussed previously, the magnitude of liability and specialty services limits the engineering consulting field to as few as a half dozen with the necessary experience and capability. These firms specialize in tower analysis, modification design, and rigging plans.

Typically, broadcast towers consume two to four weeks for a complete analysis. In addition, many towers will require additional field work, mappings, geotechnical work and foundation investigations, general information gathering, and review prior to the start of the analysis service.

Towers requiring structural modifications will add construction schedule time for permits, structural design, material fabrication, and construction installation. Following completion of the retrofit, engineering firms will conduct field inspections to certify the build. All structural modifications must be completed prior to the installation or adjustment of any existing equipment on the tower, potentially adding months to individual tower timelines for repacking completion.

Studies of tower failures show that 30% of all tower failures occur during construction or installation of new equipment.  Tower failures can lead to millions of dollars in damages, loss of service, and potentially the loss of life.  Broadcasters must be very careful selecting contractors who are licensed and insured and have experience with this kind of specialty work. The selection of licensed engineers who are properly insured and experienced is likewise critical.

The Impact of Code Changes

Many third party tower owners have completed retrofit designs to bring their towers into conformance with the latest adoption of TIA-222-G. However, industry experts estimate as many as 75% of the broadcast owned towers currently do not meet TIA-222-G requirements. These towers will require a retrofit, and likely additional geotechnical exploration and foundation investigations to obtain the necessary information to complete TIA-222-G’s rigorous analysis requirement. Not including the analysis to follow, the field services alone can take 15-20 business days (coordination of drilling, soil sampling, interpretation, reports, and foundation investigation crews).

For more detail on the TIA-222-G updates, refer to the Adoption of New Business Codes.

These challenges, highlighted by third party analysis for the FCC, are a few of the factors that contribute to the main hurdle: scheduling.

For more information: Broadcast Spectrum Repacking Timeline, Resource, and Cost Analysis Study.pdf

Timeline

Date Event
November 20, 2015 Pre-Auction Process Tutorial Available
(via Internet)
December 8, 2015 Reverse Auction Application Workshop
December 8, 2015; 12:00 noon ET Auction Application Filing Window Opens
January 12, 2016; 6:00 p.m. ET Auction Application Filing Window Deadline
February 29, 2016 Initial Commitments Tutorial (via Internet)
To Be Announced Bidding and Post-Auction Process Tutorial Available (via Internet)
March 11, 2016; 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. ET Workshop on Making an Initial Commitment
March 24, 2016; 10:00 a.m. ET Initial Commitment Preview Period Opens
March 28, 2016; 10:00 a.m. ET Initial Commitment Window Opens
March 29, 2016; 6:00 p.m. ET Initial Commitment Deadline
Three to four weeks after the initial commitment deadline Initial Clearing Target and Band Plan Announced
Specific date to be provided to each applicant that is qualified to bid by confidential status letter after the initial clearing target is announced Mock Auction(s)
Specific date to be provided to each applicant that is qualified to bid by confidential status letter after the initial clearing target is announced Bidding in the Clock Rounds Begins
Date Event
January 19, 2016 Pre-Auction Process Tutorial Available
January 27, 2016; 12:00 noon ET Auction Application Filing Window Opens
February 10, 2016; 6:00 p.m. ET Auction Application Filing Window Deadline
To Be Announced Bidding and Post-Auction Process Tutorial (via Internet)
Three to four weeks after the initial commitment deadline Initial Clearing Target and Band Plan Announced
By the deadline announced in the Upfront Payments PN; 6:00 p.m. ET Upfront Payments (via wire transfer)
To be announced in the Auction 1002 Qualified Bidders PN Clock and Assignment Phase Mock Auction
To be announced in the Auction 1002 Qualified Bidders PN Clock-Phase Auction Begins

The Repacking Process

February 25th, 2016

The adoption of new building codes: The TIA-222-G

Posted on Friday June 12, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will the FCC repacking affect me?

The repacking will directly impact broadcast networks and affiliates whose channels must be reassigned to new spectrum. If a network’s station shifts to a new channel, their equipment will require upgrades. Broadcast tower owners will be indirectly impacted as their tenants swap out equipment.

2. What do I need to do to have my towers compliant?

Structurally, the tower will need new analysis for the upgraded equipment. Depending on when the last analysis occurred, the tower may be required to have modifications to be in conformance with updated code standards.