The FCC is repurposing critical communication spectrums.
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Overview of FCC TV Broadcast Repacking

The United States leads the world in cellular technology. With the rollout of 4G, cellular consumers have unprecedented access to data and are increasingly reliant on cellular coverage for personal and business use. The burden this reliance places on the wireless network strains wireless carrier’s ability to maintain the emergency, economic, and other critical public safety communication spectrums.

In an effort to free up spectrum to meet this growing need, the FCC is repurposing broadcast spectrum.

Broadcasters across the nation will be federally mandated to repackage spectrum in the coming years, an undertaking which will challenge broadcasters and tower owners as they tackle engineering, construction, supply, and management hurdles under an aggressive deadline.

The repacking initiative reorganizes television stations in the broadcast spectrum bands so that the stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction occupy a smaller portion of the UHF band, freeing up a portion of that band for new wireless service.

Currently, 1,675 UHF stations are operating in the US. The FCC will conduct a reverse auction to buy back spectrum / auction it off for wireless use. Until this process is complete, however, the exact impact if the initiative is unknown, though it is estimated (based on auction simulations conducted privately and by the FCC) that 800-1,200 stations will require equipment upgrades.

Stations selected for repacking will require new antenna installation. For most stations, a temporary configuration of the new and old equipment installed on the tower will also be necessary.  The structural impact of either is significant, requiring engineering consultation and analysis of the broadcast towers, coordination with equipment suppliers, and management of construction and field crews.

Broadcast tower analysis are significant undertakings limited to a small group of engineering firms with the required experience and proficiency. The sheer size of broadcast towers pose obvious safety concerns, and broadcasters are all too aware of the financial implications should the critical equipment be taken off line for any duration, especially for the time required to restrict these monstrous towers in the event of a failure. It is critical that this work is coordinated efficiently and safely.

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

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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.