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Repack Triggers $3.9M American Tower Order to Dielectric

American Tower has ordered TFU-WB broadband, side-mount antennas and transmission line from Dielectric to support its broadcast customers as they relocate UHF stations to new channel assignments.

Dielectric recently announced that American Tower Corporation has placed a $3.9 million order for TFU-WB broadband, side-mount antennas and transmission line in preparation for the impending U.S. DTV spectrum repack.

The TFU-WB is a newly-developed, low-cost, 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 offers 75% less windload, lower overall weight and cost-efficiency. With its high power input, it can handle multiple stations’ transmissions at one time.

As a leading tower owner/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.

Once the spectrum repack officially starts—likely in the second quarter of 2017—the nation’s TV broadcasters will have only 39 months to deploy all the transmission equipment necessary to begin broadcasting on their new channel. To ensure that Repack goes smoothly for its customers, American Tower wanted its own inventory of versatile, cost-effective broadband antennas on hand, ready to benefit its broadcast tower tenants.

“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, Vice President, Broadcast for American Tower Corporation, in Woburn, MA.

“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.

“Jim recommended that we order Dielectric TFU-WB broadband antennas so that our TV tower tenants would have the security of no downtime during the tight repack schedule, and the flexibility to use the antenna for either their current or new channels,” Starke added.

Two years ago, at the 2015 NAB Show, American Tower met with the industry’s top TV RF transmission system vendors to brainstorm potential new transmission products. The discussion included input from American Tower’s RF experts on strategies to meet the challenges of repacking over 1,000 DTV stations nationwide. This includes more than 150 broadcasters on American Tower’s sites alone.

In its meetings with Dielectric at the 2015 NAB Show, “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,” Starke explained.

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.

“We recognized that long lead times are necessary for RF transmission suppliers, like Dielectric, 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,” Starke said.

“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,” Pelletier said. “We want broadcasters to know that we have the technical support they need, as well as reliable, well-respected products, and 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

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