FCC Announces Repack Complete, Spectrum Open for Wireless

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WASHINGTON—After 39 months, the FCC has announced that the post-incentive auction transition, which saw many TV stations take part in the repack from their pre-auction channels, has been successfully completed.

As of July 13, the 600 MHz spectrum that the TV stations have vacated and was sold during the broadcast incentive auction is now available for use by wireless mobile broadband services. 

This comes 10 days after phase 10 of the repack was scheduled to conclude on July 3. During the repack, 987 full-power and Class A TV stations were reassigned to new TV channels. To date, the commission says that 99% of those stations have successfully transitioned; those that have not yet made the move were granted short extensions due to unforeseen circumstances, but are still scheduled to complete the repack by the end of the summer. These remaining stations are currently located in the portion of the band allocated for broadcast TV or the duplex gap, and none are expected to delay the deployment of wireless services in the 600 MHz band.

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The FCC will continue to work with stations on distributing their reimbursements for relocation expenses from the $2.75 billion TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund.

With the now available spectrum, the FCC says millions of Americans will benefit as it will now be used for the development and promotion of 5G, to help close the digital divide in rural America, ease congestion on wireless networks and spur job creation and economic growth.

“Today represents a milestone in the commission’s effort to repurpose spectrum to meet the demands of wireless consumers,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “I want to thank the broadcast and wireless industries, the tower crews, the equipment manufacturers and the radio frequency engineers who support them for the hard work they have done over the past 39 months to make the benefits of the broadcast incentive auction a reality.”

The National Association of Broadcasters’ President and CEO Gordon Smith also provided a statement on the official end of the repack:

“I am incredibly proud of the broadcast television industry for its herculean efforts to meet the FCC’s aggressive repacking deadlines, despite complex and extenuating circumstances.

“NAB thanks the FCC staff for their flexibility in working with stations to facilitate transitions and grant extensions when possible. We are also grateful to Congress for allocating the additional funds needed to fully reimburse broadcasters for costs associated with these mandatory moves.

“There is still much work to be done. To meet FCC deadlines, many stations have been required to operate on temporary facilities that do not serve all station viewers. NAB will continue to work with the FCC to ensure that these stations are made whole and that affected viewers regain access to their local channels.

“In this uncertain time, it is vital that TV viewers have access to local news, entertainment and lifeline information.”