Alaska broadcaster switches from UHF to VHF

November 9, 2009

In a unique reversal, KUAC-TV, a public broadcaster in Fairbanks, AK, has moved from UHF to VHF to solve channel interference problems. Most stations changing channels after the DTV transition have moved the other way — from VHF to UHF.

KUAC switched in late September from a DTV assignment on UHF, channel 24, to VHF, channel 9, its previous analog home. The channel relocation process required the station to go off-air for six days. Moving the primary signal to VHF digital 9 in Fairbanks increased the ability for the digital signal to follow the terrain, which greatly expanded the coverage area, and increased consistency of the signal.

Using funds from a Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant, KUAC spent $1.1 million on a new Harris VHF transmitter and ERI transmission line and antenna. While on channel 24, complaints from viewers on reception flooded into the station. Homes in the outer ranges of the Fairbanks market were unable to receive the DTV signal.

KUAC sought to get the necessary work done before the long Alaskan winter set in and with minimum interruption to on-air operations. In addition to installing a new transmitter, antenna and transmission line, the tower’s foundation had to be reinforced, and new guy wires and guy piers installed. The bulk of the work was done in a week, between Sept. 13 and 20, and the station was off-air from Sept. 14 to 20.

Of the 79 full-power television stations requesting a channel substitution, 22 stations asked to change their channel allotments from a VHF channel to a UHF channel, the FCC said. Less than 10 went from UHF to VHF.

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