(click thumbnail)KYMA Chief Engineer Robbie DeCorse tunes in a live shot at the station's NuComm Troll System.Yuma, Ariz.-El Centro, Calif. is the first TV market to relocate to its new home in the 2 GHz spectrum band, thanks to an arrangement forged by Sprint Nextel and the Federal Communications Commission in February 2005.
Sprint Nextel is covering broadcasters' expenses to move from the spectrum they currently use to send live and taped feeds from their trucks to their stations in order to move some of its own operations into the bandwidth. The project is slated for completion by September 2007.
By mid-October, all 1,098 Broadcast Auxiliary Services licensees had been contacted, and 102 frequency-relocation agreements were signed with Sprint Nextel, said project head Michael Degitz, the company's vice president of spectrum resources.
Of the 102 signed licensees, 63 submitted purchase orders for new equipment; Yuma-El Centro was the only market that actually re-banded, he said.
"Even though individual stations have purchased and installed equipment, they cannot relocate until the entire market is ready," said Cindy Hutter Cavell, Sprint Nextel's director of broadcast engineering for the 2GHz project.
When asked about the feasibility of completing the project by September 2007, Degitz replied, "We're continuing to put out our best effort to get it done by then.
"The program's picking up momentum now-all major obstacles are behind us. We're getting a lot of deals sent in to us and we'll be completing more contracts in the near future."
"Located in [Nielsen demographic] market 170 [out of 210], we don't normally have cutting-edge technology to use at our station," said Robbie DeCorse, chief engineer at KYMA, a Sunbelt Communications-owned NBC affiliate. "Our analog 2 GHz [gear] was purchased in 1992," he said, noting that some of it was no longer supported by the manufacturers.
In exchange, it received Nucomm's CR6D central receiver, ChannelMaster TX1/RX1 portable transmitter/receiver and Newscaster VT2 van transmitter, plus Microwave Radio Communications (MRC) ProScan III antenna, Troll Systems studio controller and other new gear.
Sprint Nextel also paid for the station's FCC BAS licensing fees, reimbursed KYMA for staff expenses dedicated to the relocation, and contracted a SignaSys training course to familiarize the engineers and master control staff with the new equipment. In addition, it contracted Western Technical Services (an MRC dealer) and truck integrator Wolf Coach, respectively, to install the receive site and truck equipment.
Commenting on the new setup, "with digital it's either crystal clear or it's in black-no noise or color shift-which makes the picture look great," DeCorse said. He also noted the station's new-found ability to get live shots from previously unreachable locations, like Cibola High School. "Now we get a live shot with ease."
But, as typical of new equipment, there were a few glitches.
The NuComm receiver initially knocked out the subcarriers, cutting communication. But, said DeCorse, "as soon as we told them what the problem was, they were able to correct it right away-now it works great."
A problem with hooking up the portable unit used in KYMA's El Centro bureau with KYMA's editor-"green lines through the video"-was fixed by "putting the frame sync in line to correct the phase problem," using in-house spare parts, said DeCorse.
Sprint Nextel reps met with DeCorse and KYMA GM Paul Heebink in April 2005 to explain the process of narrowing the station's channel plan. R.J. Russell, Sprint Nextel's senior broadcast engineer for the West Coast, was KYMA's former operations manager and DeCorse's ex-boss, said DeCorse.
KYMA drew up an inventory of its equipment, which was verified by a crew from Western Technical Services and Wolf Coach by July 2005, when quotes began to roll in for the new equipment. KYMA staffers took training classes with SignaSys in April 2006.
Installation of the new equipment began in June 2006. "It only took three days," said DeCorse.
Between June and September, the station operated with the new gear in the old channel plan, "working out all the bugs and kinks," said DeCorse. On Sept. 22, the station switched to the new channel plan.
DeCorse advised stations anticipating their own spectrum relocation to be mindful of the Sprint Nextel timeline and Broadcast Instruction Guide.
"If you're unsure [of] what to do next, contact your representative at Sprint Nextel to help guide you through the process," he said. And, he said, be sure to go over all manufacturer quotes with Sprint Nextel.