There aren’t that many experienced tower crews that can handle the tall broadcast towers and large, heavy antennas needed for the television channel repack, which likely means the FCC’s 39-month deadline won’t be met, according to several towerco executives and broadcast equipment manufacturers.
Inside Towers reported that one rep for Vertical Technology Services recently estimated only some 14 such crews are qualified; now, several executives back that up to Communications Daily. Because of this, Tower King II CEO Kevin Barber sees the repack as lasting between five to seven years, rather than three.
Electronics Research Inc. VP Marketing Bill Harland said broadcasters form relationships with tower crews and may be reluctant to switch if their preferred crew isn’t available. Both ERI and antenna-maker Dielectric have been ramping up production ahead of the repack, however unforeseen challenges, like bad weather, can wreak havoc with the schedule, Inside Towers reported.
Some telecoms have suggested to the FCC that crews from other countries like Canada or Mexico, and even telecom tower workers could supplement U.S. broadcast tower crews. However NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway agrees with what broadcast engineers have told Inside Towers; that broadcast and telecom tower work are very different. The structures and tower work in other countries are also very different from what is required here, officials told Communications Daily.
Rio Steel Tower COO Keith Cendrick believes the tower industry can handle the workload but some broadcasters are slow to place orders and line up crews; that’s because they’ve only recently given their potential repack reimbursement equipment expenses to the FCC; the agency has broad price ranges for reimbursement and prices vary greatly depending on location and a station’s facility.
August 22, 2017