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TSG To Complete RF System Upgrades To APT TV Network

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Technical Services Group (TSG) will soon complete RF system upgrades to Alabama Public Television's (APT) terrestrial TV network to achieve complete ATSC 3.0 readiness.

TSG will install GatesAir Maxiva VAXTE air-cooled VHF transmitters at two stations and a Dielectric TFU top-mounted UHF antenna at another, with deployments expected this fall.

The GatesAir transmitters will replace legacy Harris Platinum VHF transmitters at WBIQ-DT in Birmingham and WDIQ-DT in Dozier, with integrated Maxiva XTE exciters to enable quick ATSC 3.0 conversions in the field. The VAXTE for WBIQ was specified to support an approved power increase for ATSC 1.0 and future ATSC 3.0 coverage improvements, raising WBIQ’s ERP from 3kW to 3.4kW; WDIQ will continue to transmit at 30kW. Both stations broadcast on VHF Channel 10.

The Dielectric antenna will replace a decades-old antenna for WIIQ-DT'’s Channel 19 frequency serving the Demopolis region, with reach into the Meridian, Mississippi market. The replacement antenna adds a substantial vertical polarization element to improve indoor reception of both ATSC 1.0 content and NextGen TV services powered through the ATSC 3.0 standard in the future. Dielectric’s “Future Fill” technology is built into the antenna, which will allow WIIQ to support ATSC 3.0 services through a simple increase to the antenna's null fill, smoothing out the antenna for uniform NextGen TV coverage.

TSG's scope of services for all stations includes initial systems design and specification, decommissioning of existing systems, equipment procurement, installation, testing, commissioning and proofing, according to TSG CEO Bo Hoover. The final RF system upgrades follow TSG’s buildout of APT's new statewide ATSC 3.0-ready microwave distribution system, and transmission system upgrades at several RF sites. Following these final RF upgrades, APT’s entire nine-station network will be capable of delivering NextGen TV content.

"We don't know when yet, but we will hit the ground running once our NextGen TV plans come to fruition," said Windell Wood, Director of Engineering, Alabama Public Television. "TSG’s exceptional work on our microwave system enable the IP system architecture required for ATSC 3.0, and all nine of our stations will soon have antennas with approximately 30 percent vertical polarization. That, along with new high-efficiency transmitters, will provide a robust and reliable ATSC 3.0 capable transmission network for our stations well into the future."

Hoover worked closely with the GatesAir engineering team to specify VAXTE design for WBIQ’s power increase, which required proper alignment with a previously installed Dielectric antenna. “The FCC locks WBIQ into a lower power level to avoid interference with Channel 9, which makes indoor reception a challenge,” said Hoover. “Through the approved power increase and an elliptically polarized antenna, we were able to specify a system that improves ground coverage for both ATSC standards.”

All nine stations will feature GatesAir transmitters and Dielectric antennas once installations are finalized. "We only have seven field engineers throughout the state to take care of nine TV transmitters and 30 microwave sites, among other responsibilities," said Wood. "GatesAir Maxiva UHF and VHF transmitters are very similar in construct, with modular designs and common parts that make maintenance easy. There are no surprises for our engineers from site to site. And Dielectric’s antennas are very well-built and engineered. We have had other antennas burn up in the field that required emergency replacement work. That doesn't happen with Dielectric."

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