The C-Band Transition: Two Big Mistakes You Won’t Want to Make

Kyle Glen for Unsplash
Kyle Glen for Unsplash

Kyle Glen for Unsplash

We’ve updated this blog entry from the earlier publication (Aug. 5, 2020) “The C-band Transition: Here’s One Big Mistake You Won’t Want to Make” to reflect the current timeline of the repack and ongoing discussions we’re having with those in the industry.

We are midway through the C-band repack. We’ve spent over a year putting 5G filters on radio and television networks across the country. For C-band radio networks, the protection of registered uplinks and downlinks in the top 46 markets is complete.

TV is not too far behind. Red filters have been placed on all TV networks in the top 46 markets who utilize the C-band spectrum, with blue filters coming into the mix when enough satellites are in orbit to move all the traffic above 4.0 GHz.

The deadline for blue filters to be on every registered radio and TV antenna in the top 46 markets? December 2023.

All good, right? But there are a few potential pitfalls that broadcasters may inadvertently experience that we would like to warn you about.

But, first, let’s be clear.

I’m not talking to those of you who stayed in the C-band repack process. But, rather, those of you who chose the “lump sum” — established by the FCC for earth station operators to accept a lump sum amount (a generous $8948 per antenna) “based on the average, estimated costs” of relocating their earth stations.

I get it. If you have dozens of C-band downlinks in your network, it seemed like a no-brainer to accept the lump sum payment and worry about the process later.

But, understand that by choosing the lump sum, you accepted a certain amount of responsibility, as well.

Big Mistake #1: Not being prepared for a possible FCC audit of how you used your lump sum.

The Federal Communications Commission does not give you something for nothing.

From experience, we at LinkUp know that federal regulators will likely expect you to use the lump sum payment to repoint and filter your C-band antennas or find an alternative method (like internet or fiber) to take its place.

Remember the TV repack from a few years back? The FCC gave TV networks a 39 month transition period from the date the auction closed, April 13, 2017, to July 13, 2020 to vacate their pre-auction channels and clearing the 600 MHz Spectrum band.

Specific steps were laid out for TV networks to be compensated for the move, with the warning that stations must maintain adequate records in case of an audit.

Sure, there has been no mention of keeping records of your expenditures to protect your network or migrate off C-band, but — in the history of the FCC — have you ever known them to be an ATM machine?

Keep detailed records, just in case.

Big Mistake #2: Hiring technicians that don’t stand behind their work, leaving you holding the bag.

Everyone who chose the C-band repack Lump Sum option should understand that you and you alone are responsible for the installation of filters, upgrades, and repoints of your antennas.

Hire a reliable, seasoned crew of satellite technicians to assist and you will probably be okay. The transition work should be completed correctly and within an acceptable timeline and budget.

But here’s where it gets tricky. During the SES transition from AMC 8 to SES 11 a few years back there were quite a few traveling teams of technicians – we called them satellite cowboys – who said they had the knowledge and experience, but did not.

In fact, nearly half the calls in 2017 we received from networks asking for our services were from folks who had hired a crew to help them with the repoint, only for the group to produce less-than-stellar results.

LinkUp became the clean up crew; coming in and fixing problems that were caused by inadequately trained technicians. I’m sure that paying for the same service call twice was not the intention of these engineers.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • If you choose to hire someone to add filters to your antennas, make sure they are reputable and thorough.
  • If they are supplying the 5G filter, make sure it’s from a reputable filter company.
  • If you need a filter, contact us at LinkUp. We have ALGA’s in stock. (Microwave Filter Company also makes a nice 5G filter, as well.)
  • Ask for (or take) before and after screen shots so you have that all-important paper trail showing your efforts to keep the effects of 5G on your broadcast network at bay.