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Fred Baumgartner is the former TV Product Manager for Nautel.

Fred started with AM in the 1970s, then FM, and now TV. Of all things in broadcasting, he loves transmission the most. He’s the guy with the 1954 1KW AM rig he’s slowly restoring for 160M Amateur operation; taking up the space normal people might have used for restoring a sports car. Fred loves a good idea, contemplating how to make this industry better, or an engineering puzzle.
 
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by Fred Baumgartner

 
At 3:00 a.m. Eastern on March 29, 1941, the AM radio spectrum was “repacked,” to use today’s TV term, to make room for more Canadian and Mexican clear channels and better utilize the spectrum. The North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement was put together in Havana, and added 550 and 1510-1600 kHz to the radio dial. Stations traded crystals, engineers retuned antennas and directional arrays. It was a massive undertaking. Since then the FCC has “refarmed” spectrum used for any number of services to make room for things like cellular phones and satellites.

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TV transmission has been more or less in stasis since the 2009 digital transition. The industry awaits the FCC’s struggle with the last and most difficult issues that will determine which stations have what rights to spectrum, the details of how the auctions and reverse auctions bidding rules will work, interference will be mitigated and accommodated, and who will have a protected place in the post repack world.

While the 1941 radio “repack” allowed for an expanding number of stations, the current repack of TV is to “recover” UHF spectrum for wireless services. There is a lot of incentive for some stations to either go off the air or partner with another station to use the same channel in order to free spectrum. UHF spectrum that not so long ago had few takers is now prized for our urban, digital, wireless society.

While the 1941 “repack” was done mostly over a single night, the UHF repacking is scheduled for 39-months to allow transmitter and antenna manufacturers to build the needed equipment, and tower crews and engineers to do the work that is needed. Refarming often doesn’t come with any cash assistance for users needing to move; this time it does. Some of the monies the FCC will get from auctions of wireless spectrum will go to ease the burden of rebuilding transmission facilities. The start date of the 39-month clock is yet to be firmed up, but the pressure for the spectrum repack continues to grow and what objections there are, are about the details.

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As broadcasters consider their options, one tool that is helpful is Nautel’s free “Radio Coverage Tool” which covers UHF-TV as well as FM propagation. Start by creating a FREE RF Toolkit account here >> Then in the Radio Coverage Tool Coverage Plots, select ATSC TV 41/48dBµV/M for North American TV, and select the default antenna and power or modify it for any location in the world.

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