Tower Audits Tell You How Much Repack Work is Ahead

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Starting this year, roughly 1,000 television stations need to move to a different channel. The Commission will “re-pack” those stations into a smaller TV band as their former spectrum was auctioned to wireless carriers. GatesAir Chief Product Officer Rich Redmond explains to readers of Inside Towers that his company typically begins with a tower audit for a broadcaster to determine what work will be involved for the move.

IT: What is a tower audit?

Redmond: A tower audit is a complete review of a tower including cataloging all antenna transmission lines and such located on the tower. This can also include a structural analysis of the tower with the antennas and lines with respect to the current tower loading standards, review of anchors, and overall condition of a tower we prepare for changes needed to support a repack move. 

IT: Why is it needed?

Redmond: Many TV stations may need to make changes to antennas, including removal of old antenna and installation of new and or auxiliary antennas to support the spectrum repack. The audit allows stations to understand where they stand, and why extensive efforts may be needed to support repack activities related to a channel move.

IT: What’s the (or is there…) typical equipment on towers now that can be removed now to prepare for repack work?

Redmond: The largest is if there are any remaining Analog TV antennas and transmission lines, other targets would be any unused antennas or transmission line that may have been left in place when tenants left the tower. One such example might be remaining antennas and line for MediaFlo installations.

IT: How will companies like GatesAir minimize on-air disruptions and tower overloading as repack work kicks into high-gear?

Redmond: GatesAir will use careful site planning, coordination of trades, and in some cases, use of auxiliary sites or antennas to minimize the impact of off-air time for broadcasters. Parallel installation of transmitters will also be another step to minimize the disruption, including the use of frequency-agile equipment to support smooth transitions.

IT: There appears to be no slack in the construction schedule laid out by the FCC. What should stations be doing now to prepare for the repack?

Redmond: If they have not already done so, a good review of the current installation, new electrical work and equipment selection, and the outline of a multipart conversion plan that includes all parties is the first step. Many tasks, such as removal of unused equipment and antennas can be done regardless of the transition phase a station is in. Electrical work can be completed before the arrival of broadcast equipment to accelerate the installation speed. Broadcasters should be looking to take as many items as they can out of the critical path to eliminate as many dependencies as possible.

By Leslie Stimson, Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers

February 22, 2018

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