TV and FM broadcast antenna systems manufacturer Dielectric has attracted attention for its post-FCC spectrum auction repack-focused operation in Lewiston, Maine.
Among those that have gravitated toward what Dielectric is doing is none other than FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who recently took a guided tour of the facility with key company executives.
Pai toured the facility with Dielectric President Andy Whiteside and VP/GM Keith Pelletier, who gave him a brief discussion of Dielectric’s 75 year history of service to the broadcast industry.
Since opening its doors in December 2017, Dielectric’s Lewiston location has exclusively focused on production of UHF antennas and systems for TV broadcasters migrating to new channel assignments. Dielectric recently announced its 500th repack antenna booking and has already shipped more than 200 antennas and systems to broadcasters.
Pai viewed close to 25 high-power TV antennas in various stages of assembly and testing during the tour. Highlights included in-progress assemblies of the TFU-WB, a multi-channel broadband UHF antenna that offers broadcasters a seamless transition to new channel assignments. Also among the antennas on site was a 25,000-pound TV antenna awaiting shipment to Hurricane Maria-ravaged Puerto Rico.
“Since this was Chairman Pai’s first visit, we took the opportunity to familiarize him with our accomplishments, starting with the leadership role we played during our nation’s digital TV transition,” Pelletier said. “We then highlighted how Dielectric is designing, building, and shipping a record number of antenna systems to serve the historic, national spectrum repack initiative.”
Pai took a particular interest in the TFU-WB antenna, as it has played an important role in accelerating spectrum clearance.
Whiteside said, “We expressed our concern to Chairman Pai that a significant number of installations have already been delayed as broadcasters and rigging crews encounter the technical, structural, logistical and weather problems typical of these projects.”
Notes Dielectric VP/Sales Jay Martin, “As a side-mounted, easily installed, auxiliary antenna solution, the TFU-WB offers broadcasters nationwide a strategy to vacate their legacy channel positions. It gives tower crews time to prepare for the typically more complex and time-consuming main antenna installation, along with transmission line.”
For Pai, Pelletier says he was “clearly intrigued with the complex and unique nature of each antenna system, and the lengths we go to make sure our antennas and brand meet broadcaster expectations.”
Pai also seemed extremely interested in the technology Dielectric has developed to enable ATSC 3.0 for next-generation television.
“We have provided RF equipment to just about all the current ATSC 3.0 projects on-going throughout the country, and we hope that U.S. broadcasters will quickly embrace the opportunities of the new standard to develop robust business models for broadcasting’s future,” Pelletier said.
The Dielectric team also detailed how they continue to work with broadcasters to meet their challenging spectrum repack commitments, including those that have agreements with T-Mobile to free spectrum early by vacating their current channels ahead of the FCC repack schedule.