Twin Cities-based Cordillera Communications is putting the wheels in motion on the broadcast spectrum move of no less than three UHF stations—a move predicated by the completion of the FCC’s spectrum auction.
Stations in Kentucky, Colorado and Montana are impacted, and brought in to assist with the channel shift for the trio of broadcast stations is GatesAir.
That’s because Cordillera has selected GatesAir transmission equipment and services for its WLEX-DT, the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Ky.; KOAA-DT, the NBC affiliate serving the Colorado Springs/Pueblo, Colo., DMA; and KAJJ-CD, a low-power TV station in Kalispell, Montana.
Cordillera is in the process of submitting their applications for construction permits, budget statements, price quotes and other information required by the FCC for reimbursement. Once this paperwork has been completed, Cordillera will order transmitters for each site. GatesAir is implementing an accelerated delivery schedule to help all stations in meeting FCC transition deadlines.
“GatesAir engineers have already conducted site surveys of our Lexington and Colorado Springs facilities to determine what repack-related work must be completed in advance of moving to our new channel assignments,” said Sean Franklin, VP/Engineering and Technology for Cordillera Communications. “Once we’ve completed our FCC paperwork, we’ll be finalizing the details for new Maxiva ULXTE liquid-cooled UHF transmitters (pictured), XTE exciters, and other RF equipment that GatesAir will supply.”
GatesAir has been actively advising and assisting Cordillera, a long-time customer since the spectrum auction and repack began. Franklin also visited GatesAir’s Mason, Ohio headquarters, and attended GatesAir workshops, to gain insight into what to expect at each stage of the process.
“The entire process is quite complex, and requires careful strategizing to maximize our allotted budgets and timeframe,” Franklin said.
Careful strategizing is particularly key for WLEX, which shares a broadcast antenna with WTVQ, the local ABC affiliate owned by Morris Multimedia. During the initial DTV transition, the stations decided to share an antenna with a combiner because they operate on adjacent RF channels. While marketed as virtual channel 18, WLEX actually transmits on channel 39, while WTVQ transmits on channel 40.
The challenge is that WLEX must relocate its UHF channel in Phase 8 of the FCC transition plan, which spans January 18 through March 13, 2020; WTVQ moves sooner in Phase 6, which will happen between Sept. 7 and Oct. 18, 2019.
The two stations are looking to continue with the same configuration—separate transmitters but a shared antenna on a single tower—following the repack period.
“The biggest challenge for us—and other impacted stations—is to maintain uninterrupted over-the-air service,” said Franklin. “Since we want to switch to the new antenna at the same time, the Morris station is looking into petitioning the Commission to move its channel in Phase 8 instead of 6. We’re also looking into putting up an interim antenna to keep our signal on the air until we can make a clean switch to the permanent antenna.”
Cordillera has been working closely with GatesAir to make sure they stay within FCC guidelines for reimbursement, which only covers “like equipment,” comparable to what the station currently has.
GatesAir’s newest line of Maxiva transmitters and XTE exciters are ATSC 3.0-ready.
Joseph Mack, VP of Sales/Americas for GatesAir, noted, “At a time when broadcasters are facing complex challenges and having to make consequential decisions, we’re committed to standing behind them with comprehensive, next-generation technology and expert engineering services. We are dedicated to providing timely information resources, as well as accelerated delivery, installation and commissioning of equipment, in order to ensure that they meet their tight construction deadlines and switchover to their new RF equipment as seamlessly as possible.”