The Transition Process
Following conclusion of the broadcast television incentive auction in April 2017, certain full power and Class A broadcast television stations, including but not limited to those that operate on channels between 38 and 51, are required to move from their pre-auction channels to new channels in the reorganized broadcast television bands (Channels 2-36). The FCC provided stations that either (1) submitted a winning bid to move to the low or high VHF bands (band changing stations), (2) applied but were not auction winners, or (3) did not apply to bid in the auction, with new channel assignments in the reorganized television bands (repacked stations). New channel assignments were designed to minimize costs by:
- maximizing the number of channel "stays," or stations assigned to their pre-auction channels instead of being assigned to new channels;
- minimizing the maximum aggregate new interference experienced by any station;
- avoiding reassignment of stations with high anticipated relocation costs; and
- prioritizing assignments to channel 5 in the Low-VHF band and off of channel 14 in the UHF band.
Repacked Stations: The Commission established a phase transition schedule that assigned repacked stations, including repacked band changing stations, to one of ten transition phases. Each transition phase has a deadline by which stations are permitted to commence testing and operation on their post-auction channel (testing period) and a date by which each station must cease operating on their pre-auction channels (phase completion date). The phase completion date is also the date that will be listed in that station's construction permit as its construction deadline. Stations that are part of a "linked-station set" must coordinate their testing and commencement of post-auction operations with other stations in the set so as to avoid undue interference and must transition to their post-auction channel in coordination. Commission rules prohibit a station from causing pairwise interference above 2 percent during the transition period and stations must respect that limitation during testing of a post-auction channel before the beginning of the station's assigned testing period or at the time of transition for a linked station set.
While stations may request extensions of time to construct their new facilities, absent express authority of the FCC, stations will not be allowed to continue operating on their pre-auction channel past their assigned phase completion date. Furthermore, no station will be permitted to continue operating on its pre-auction channel after July 13, 2020. Stations may also request special temporary authority to operate either on temporary facilities on their new channel, on a channel relinquished by another bidder in the auction, or jointly use another station's channel on a temporary basis.
Current phase assignments, linked station sets, and other technical information about the transition can be found on the Current Phase Transition Data Files page.
Relinquishment and Channel Sharing Stations. Any broadcast station that relinquished its license in the incentive auction was required to turn in their licenses and cease operating. Relinquishing stations were permitted to continue broadcasting by entering into an agreement to share a channel with a non-relinquishing station.
Displaced Low Power Television (LPTV) and Translator Stations: LPTV/translator stations that were not protected in the repacking process and displaced as a result of the repacking process were permitted to apply for new channels during the displacement filing window, which concluded on June 1, 2018. LPTV and TV translator stations may remain on their existing channels until they are needed by repacked stations or for those stations in the 600 MHz Band until they are notified by a new 600 MHz Band licensee that it is ready to commence operations or conduct its first field application (FFA) testing.
Depending on whether a broadcaster is a reassigned/band changing station or relinquishment station, broadcasters are required to comply with certain filing and notice requirements as part of the transition process. Broadcast licensees can review a checklist of procedures relevant to their particular circumstances with regards to the transition.
Broadcast licensees can review a checklist of procedures relevant to their particular circumstances and track their progress.
Transition Scheduling Plan
The Commission established a 39-month period for all reassigned and band changing stations to transition to their post-auction channel assignments following the conclusion of the auction. Recognizing the potential for increased interference between stations that are still operating on their pre-auction channels and those that have commenced operating on their post-auction channels, as well as the need to facilitate efficient use of resources, the Commission instructed the Media Bureau to adopt a phased transition schedule.
The Transition Scheduling Plan assigned band changing and reassigned stations into one of ten "phases." Each transition phase includes a designated phase "testing period," during which stations may begin operation on its post-auction channel and a phase "completion date" when the station may no longer transmit on its pre-auction channel. Phase assignments, testing periods, and phase completion dates were established by taking into account a number of considerations, including but not limited to those listed below.
- Clear 600 MHz Wireless Band As Soon As Possible: Assigning stations whose pre-auction channels are in the 600 MHz Band to earlier phases would help open it up to licensees to offer new innovative services.
- Account for Resource Capacity and Constraints: Assign minimum completion times for each station based on resource availability and the estimated time it will take to complete various construction tasks.
- Limit TV Viewer Rescans/Preserve Regional Focus: Limiting stations in the same Designated Market Area (DMA) to two phases also limits to two the number of times viewers would need to rescan for over-the-air channels. It also reflects the regional approach that stakeholders have suggested.
- Give "Complicated" Stations More Time: Assigning the most challenging and time-consuming stations to later phases allows adequate time for their transitions.
- Limit Linked Station Sets in a Phase: Limiting linked sets within a phase would limit the effect of dependencies and facilitate coordination among broadcasters.
- Limit the Total Number of Phases to 10: Using ten phases strikes a balance between limiting the size of linked-station sets and other goals. A greater number of phases could decrease the number of linked-station sets in each phase but makes more difficult other goals such as transitioning stations within the same media market at the same time and avoiding the need for multiple channel rescans by viewers. Keeping the number of stations in each phase roughly equal also helps in the sharing of resources in each phase.
- Allow Temporary 2% Increase in Pairwise Interference: Allowing temporary limited increases in interference between two stations is in accord with past transitions and would significantly reduce the number and complexity of dependencies.
- Other Factors: Account for relative length of testing periods, seasonal considerations, etc.
Grouping stations into phases with a detailed schedule allows stations, tower crews, and equipment manufacturers to know when the FCC expects specific stations to complete their transition and thereby plan accordingly. It also ensures that stations will be able to test on their post-auction channel during a specified testing period and limit the number of stations that need to coordinate their transition.
A complete list and discussion of the considerations that went into assigning stations to phases, as well as establishing testing periods and phase completion dates can be found in the Appendix to the Transition Scheduling Adoption Public Notice . Current phase assignments, linked station sets, and other technical information about the transition can be found on the Post-Auction Transition Data Files page.