American Tower Corp. has placed a $3.9 million order with Dielectric for TFU-WB broadband, side-mount antennas and transmission line in preparation for the impending U.S. DTV spectrum repack.
Dielectric specializes in purpose-engineered antennas and RF systems for TV and radio broadcasters.
To ensure that the spectrum repack process goes smoothly for its customers, American Tower wanted its own inventory of broadband antennas on hand for its broadcast tower tenants. As a leading tower owner and operator in the U.S., American Tower serves broadcasters by building new towers for them or leasing them space on one of its more than 40,000 existing U.S. tower sites.
Spectrum repack efforts are likely to be seen between April and the end of June, and once it begins the nation’s TV broadcasters will have 39 months to deploy all the transmission equipment necessary to begin broadcasting on their new channel assignment.
In a move designed to help broadcasters in this process, the FCC on Thursday unanimously approved a Report and Order that would authorize channel sharing outside the context of the incentive auction.
“American Tower made a commitment over two years ago to the U.S. TV industry and the FCC to be as prepared as possible for the construction challenges associated with the 39-month repack construction period,” said Peter Starke, VP/Broadcast for American Tower.
Dielectric’s TFU-WB is a newly developed side-mount UHF broadband pylon-type antenna that is both ATSC 3.0 and DVB-T2 ready. Compared to UHF panel antennas, the TFU-WB boasts 75% less windload, and lower overall weight. With its high power input, it can handle multiple stations’ transmissions at one time.
“When the FCC proposed its 10-phase repack cutover transition plan, Jim Stenberg, our principal engineer for RF broadcast, recognized the need for auxiliary antennas at tower sites where repack construction complexities may not permit enough time for a permanent new channel solution to be built. Some stations might even have to cut over to their new channels in only 15 months,” Starke said.
American Tower has been proactive in its desire to bring new transmission products to market for the TV industry. At the 2015 NAB Show, the company met with the industry’s top TV RF transmission system vendors to share ideas.
In its meetings with Dielectric at the that conference, Starke said, “Our focus turned toward the need for new broadband antennas on our towers due to limited tower space, limited transition build time and the complexities of the sites.”
Dielectric responded by designing the TFU-WB antenna, which Keith Pelletier, VP/GM at Dielectric said, “can serve as a transitional or interim antenna that broadcasters can put up on towers. This ensures that they’re on the air and broadcasting without interruption due to unforeseen installation delays.”
American Tower’s large Dielectric antenna order includes three runs of 1,500-foot six-inch transmission line, as well as eight runs of 1,500-foot eight-inch transmission line, which will be used in conjunction with the transitional antennas.
Starke noted, “We recognized that long lead times are necessary for RF transmission suppliers to acquire and fabricate large, rigid coax transmission materials into finished product. By placing our order with Dielectric now, in advance of the repack, this affords us the luxury of having the RF transmission components we need for our new broadband antenna repack/ATSC 3.0-ready projects.”
Pelletier noted, “Based on our experience with the DTV transition years ago, we know that tower crews and RF transmission equipment will be in great demand as broadcasters all push at once to relocate their channels. We want broadcasters to know that we’ve put processes in place to ensure that we can keep pace with demand to ensure that their repack experience goes as smoothly as possible.”