Repacking

Repacking involves assigning channels to the broadcast television stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction in order to clear contiguous blocks of spectrum suitable for flexible use. The Notice considers only a reassignment of channels, not geographic moves of stations; however, a station that opts to channel share may have to move to a new geographic location – i.e., its sharing partner’s tower.

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology and the International, Media, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus and the Incentive Auction Task Force has released a preliminary set of constraint files which represents the results of staff analysis of whether a television station could be assigned to particular channels in the incentive auction repacking process, consistent with statutory and other requirements, based on certain preliminary assumptions. The constraint files consist of two separate files, the “domain file” and the “interference_paired file.” In addition, preliminary data about incumbent licensees in the broadcast television bands has been culled from FCC databases and posted as five separate data files. We are releasing the information in the interest of transparency and to give interested parties the opportunity to provide input regarding aspects of the repacking process.

Explore the Public Notice Explore the Appendix Download the Data

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) has released new software to perform interference analyses using the methodology described in its Bulletin No. 69 (OET–69). This software, called TVStudy, provides analysis of coverage and interference of full-service digital and Class A television stations and will be critical to the repacking process. OET seeks comment on the software generally, as well as the identification of any errors, unexpected behaviors, or anomalous results produced in running the software. In addition, OET solicits comment on the implementation of various analytical elements in the software that are not specifically addressed in OET–69.

Download the TVStudy Software – OET Bulletin No. 69 Comment on the Public Notice Explore the Public Notice

Comment Date: March 4, 2013

Reply Comment Date: March 19, 2013

Repacking involves assigning channels to the broadcast television stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction in order to clear contiguous blocks of spectrum suitable for flexible use. The Notice considers only a reassignment of channels, not geographic moves of stations; however, a station that opts to channel share may have to move to a new geographic location – i.e., its sharing partner’s tower.

In considering which channels can be assigned to which television stations, FCC rules recognize that television stations with towers in close proximity to each other can cause harmful interference to each other’s broadcast signal if they are assigned to the same or immediately adjacent television channels. For example, if Station A is assigned channel 20 and station B is located nearby, it could cause interference if it were assigned to channels 19, 20 or 21.

The Spectrum Act requires that the FCC “make all reasonable efforts to preserve, as of February 22, 2012, the coverage area and population served of each broadcast television licensee…” The Notice describes and seeks comment on three options to preserve a station’s (referred to in these examples as the “study station”) population served.

Option #1: This option limits the total interference the study station receives after the repacking process (measured in population that cannot receive the signal because of interference from other stations) to no more than the study station had as of February 22, 2012 (with a “rounding tolerance” that would allow additional interference as long as it impacts no more than 0.5% of the population).

Option 1

This first option would not ensure preservation of service to all of the specific viewers that currently can receive a station’s signal, but rather would preserve service to approximately the same total number of viewers.

Here’s one example of how this could work: Station A and Station B are currently next to each other and Station B causes interference to 10% of Station A’s covered population (i.e. population within a station’s noise-limited contour that actually receives service). If Station B goes off the air or is moved to a channel such that it no longer causes interference to Station A, the repacking process could consider assigning Station C to Station B’s former channel – but only if Station C would cause interference to 10% or less of Station A’s covered population.

Option #2: This option limits the impact on the specific population caused by any single interfering station. As reflected in the diagram below, option #2 says that in the repacking process, no single station can cause interference to more than an additional 0.5% of the specific population of the study station that experienced interference from any station as of February 22, 2012.

Option 2

Here’s one example of how this could work: Station A and Station B are currently next to each other, and Station B causes interference to 10% of Station A’s covered population. If Station B goes off the air or is moved to a channel such that it no longer causes interference to Station A, then the repacking process could assign Station C to Station B’s former channel, but only if Station C creates the same amount (with a “rounding tolerance” that would allow additional interference as long as it impacts no more than 0.5% of the population) or less interference in the exact places that Station B created interference. Thus, option 2 allows “replacement interference” only where interference existed as of February 22, 2012.

Option #3: Like option #2, this option considers interference on a station-to-station, rather than aggregate basis. However, option #3 differs from option #2 in two distinct ways. First, unlike option #2, option #3 allows “replacement interference” only from the specific station that caused the interference previously to that station’s noise-limited population, as opposed to from any station. Second, because option #3 gives the Commission far less flexibility than option #2, the NPRM considers raising the “rounding tolerance” standard from 0.5% to 2% for stations that did not interfere with each other as of February 22, 2012.

As reflected in the examples below, a station that caused interference to the study station that exceeded the de minimis standard as of February 22, 2012 could be assigned a channel that would allow them to cause up to this same level of interference. For stations that did not cause interference to the study station as of February 22, 2012, they would be able to cause interference that impacted no more that 2% of the study station’s February 22, 2012 terrain-limited population.

Here are two examples of how this could work: Station A and Station B are currently next to each other. Station B causes interference over 10% of Station A and Station A causes interference over 10% of Station B. If Station B goes off the air or is moved to a channel such that it no longer causes interference to Station A, the repacking process could consider assigning Station C to Station B’s former channel – but only if Station C would cause interference to 2% or less of Station A’s terrain-limited population.

Option 3a
– OR –

Station A and Station B are currently next to each other. Station B causes interference over 10% of Station A and Station A causes interference over 10% of Station B. If Station A & Station B decide to not participate in the auction, the repacking process could move them as a pair to new channels as long as Station B doesn’t cause more than 10% amount of interference to Station A and Station A doesn’t cause more than 10% interference to Station B in their new channel locations. Station C could be moved next to Station A & Station B if it would cause no more than 2% interference to each Station’s terrain-limited population.

Option 3b