TV Repacking: From 83, to 69, to 51 and now 32
Today, the Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice to announce Stage 3 of the Broadcast Spectrum Incentive Auction. In this announcement, the Commission has announced a clearing target of 108 megahertz of spectrum between 584 and 698 MHz (this does not include the channel 37 spectrum between 608-614 MHz which is not used for broadcast television). This will mean that television has been reduced to 31 channels (channels 2 to 32). In most markets, 8-spectrum pairs will be created for auction to wireless providers. In addition, there will be 11 MHz of guard band between channel 32 and the reallocated segment, 11 MHz between the upper and lower channel groups as well as 3 MHz of guard band around each side of channel 37.
At one time, television went as high as channel 83 (890 MHz) with the establishment of the NTSC color television standard in 1952. In 1983, channels 70 to 83 (806~890 MHz) would be removed from television and reallocated for the expansion of land mobile services as well as the creation of cellular telephone service. The spectrum would be further trimmed to channel 51 (698 MHz) in 2009 and later to channel 50 (692 MHz) for the introduction of the 700 MHz land mobile and public safety services as well as public mobile 4G LTE spectrum.
As a part of the reverse auction that is taking place, broadcasters will have a choice to:
- remain on a UHF channel,
- switch to a VHF-Hi band channel (7~13, 174~216 MHz),
- switch to a VHF-Lo band channel (2~6, 54~72, 76~88 MHz),
- completely shut down transmission operations (they also have the option to co-locate with another TV station and share a channel).
VHF-Hi band stations have the option of going to Lo band and all TV stations have the option to shut down.
The repacking of television stations, especially in urban areas will result in the possibility that new stations may come to channel 6 which could impact the availability the availability of LPFM, FM translator and full power NCE stations in the 88~92 MHz band based on the Commission's outdated channel 6 protection rules that were designed for analog television and have not been reconsidered with the launch of digital television.
With more stations potentially coming into channels 5 and 6, this would reduce any potential that these two channels could be reallocated for an expansion of the FM sound broadcasting band.
REC's position is that the United States needs to join most of the rest of the world and reallocate the VHF Lo spectrum from television to other services including extended FM broadcasting, a set-aside for very low power and special event FM broadcast operations, an expansion of the amateur radio 6 meter band to allow for television experimentation on channel 2 spectrum as well as other services.