Installer Calls Repack “Overwhelming”


“From an installer standpoint we are overwhelmed,” says Vertical Technology Services CEO Owen Garland, referring to the TV channel repack. His company is one of the few that have the expertise to climb tall TV towers and handle their large, heavy antennas.

As the September 14 testing period for those stations in Phase 1 of the repack creeps closer, and planning and construction for Phases 2 and 3 is underway, Garland said last week, “the worst tower case” is working with a wraparound panel antenna. In some cases, that type of antenna can be the same length as a gin pole. His company is “looking at four sites where we’re going to have to dismantle somebody’s antenna” to get it up the tower, slowing down the pace of the work, he told attendees of a Chapter 37 meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.  

Using WRC-TV Channel 4’s tower in Washington, D.C. as an example, Garland said his company would try to use a helicopter to speed up the antenna work, if neighbors allow. If not, and they need to do the work conventionally with a gin pole, the station (and any FMs on the tower,) could be off the air for up to 30 days. 

That’s why Garland recommends FMs sharing a TV tower obtain an off-site auxiliary antenna to minimize their time either off the air or transmitting at low power because of TV tower repack work. Even if the aux FM antenna is 100 feet below the main FM antenna on the TV tower, “We will still have to turn down the power every day we work,” he cautioned engineers attending the meeting.

The shorter the tower, the closer the FM antenna usually is, according to Garland. For say, a 140- to 160-foot tall tower, “We move up and down that length all day. You’re talking about a long time at reduced power.”

Another reason to get an off-site aux antenna, is in case a lightning strike or some other issue knocks the FM antenna off the air. “Now, the majority of people who could fix it are tied up somewhere else,” because of the repack, according to Garland.

Manufacturers involved in the repack are also busier. He characterized the long lines to get into the Dielectric booth at NAB this spring like visiting a McDonald’s. Lead times for obtaining materials are growing and prices for steel and aluminum are rising, he said. Garland had to rebid the same job three times because a customer delayed the go-ahead for modification of a guyed tower in Pennsylvania. In the meantime, guy wire prices there doubled.  

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

July 17, 2018

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