Skip to main content

Chicago Completes BAS Transition

It's the biggest market yet to move its Broadcast Auxiliary Services to new digital channels in the 2 GHz transition. Chicago (DMA No. 3, with 7 million residents) made the switch over the weekend of Sept. 27-28, Sprint Nextel said.

The switch has now reached 55 markets covering a population of more than 76 million, according to Sprint Nextel.

Among the Chicago facilities transitioned with new equipment and coordination were 56 mobile trucks, 40 central receive sites, 10 production studios, two fixed links, six helicopters, 20 portable receivers and 74 four portable transmitters.

Field tests in Chicago included simultaneous transmissions from 11 mobile units and two helicopters that had converged on a single transmission location to simulate what occurs at a major news event, according to a letter to the FCC from Sprint Nextel director Trey Hanbury. The transition involved facilities from every BAS operator in the city. Broadcasters reported that their new BAS systems operated without experiencing interference either at the central transmission site where more than a dozen ground-based and airborne units competed for capacity, or at the main central receive sites located atop the Sears Tower and Hancock Center in downtown Chicago, Hanbury wrote. Also, broadcasters said the new BAS systems proved much more selective and far less vulnerable to interference from reflective surfaces, according to Sprint Nextel.

The Chicago switch follows that of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., which made the switch Sept. 13. Those two markets combine for 21 eligible television operations serving a population of nearly 3.5 million people, 64 news trucks, six helicopters, and the replacement of almost two dozen fixed links and more than 100 portable BAS transmitters and receivers.

"Given the complexity of these markets, the local television broadcasting communities in Chicago and Baltimore-Washington deserve special recognition for working literally around the clock to solve complicated technical problems and, in some cases, cooperating in the re-engineering of entire BAS communications facilities to ensure that this phase of the transition finished on schedule," Hanbury wrote.

Sprint Nextel said all affected broadcasters (except for KGTF in Guam) have now submitted quote packages for the transition, and manufacturers have fulfilled 40 percent of equipment orders.

While praising broadcasters for their participation, Sprint Nextel did not have the same warmth for the folks receiving the liberated spectrum. "The only parties absent from this process were—once again—the two MSS licensees, who long ago entered the 2 GHz band through licensing, building, testing, and, in ICO’s case, operating their satellite systems, but continue to do nothing to help relocate the BAS systems that encumber the 20 MHz of BAS spectrum that their MSS systems occupy," Harbury wrote.