LA County Grabs TV Channel 15

On December 30, the FCC ordered Tuesday that it will process land mobile radio applications for the channel 15 (476 – 482 MHz) television band for the County of Los Angeles. In order to demonstrate their need for the spectrum, LA County had filed 57 applications on the new band.

The applications were filed as San Diego State University applied to continue using channel 15 after February 17, the analog TV shutdown date. The channel 15 analog transmission of KPBS-TV would move to serve its La Jolla audience with a digital transmitter. Currently there are two analog translators in La Jolla operating on channels 59 and 67 as K59AL and K67AL. A condition of the new order seems to allow KPBS to operate on channel 15 and KBNT on channel 14 in San Diego, outside a 130 kilometer radius of the LA County radio transceivers.

LA County told the Commission that the channel 15 band frequencies “are immediately adjacent to channels 14 and 16, that are already allocated for land mobile operations in Los Angeles and currently provde the principal radio communications for the County and other public safety agencies within its borders.” The county asserts that “there will not be sufficient capacity in the 700 MHz narrowband channels to accommodate all of the public safety users…that will operate at 470 – 512 MHz.” Since the UHF -TV frequencies are not allocated to public safety radio, LA County sought waivers of Sections 90.303 and 90.305, and Part 73 of FCC rules.

Of the order, Southern California Frequency Coordination Committee leader Howard Fine says, “It’s a spectrum grab.” He said they could conserve existing spectrum by going to narrowband modulation rather than the wasteful 25 kHz FM deviation used.

Entravision Holdings and San Diego State University filed comments against the waiver request. Both parties wrote that the Commission had already allocated the 700 MHz band for public safety use. Entravision said further that, “[t]he pool of broadcast spectrum is further diminished by the requirement to protect neighboring analog and DTV allotments in Mexico.”

KJLA and Shure Electronics filed comments claiming that channel 15 is used extensively in the LA area by wireless microphone and other auxiliary stations.

Other organizations, including the Metropolitan Water District and National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) wrote in favor of the spectrum waiver, saying that the 24 MHz of new spectrum in the 700 MHz band would be insufficient for future public service uses, and that channel 15 is unusable for broadcasting in the LA basin due to the adjacent channel 14 land mobile allocation.

As a condition of the order, the FCC wrote that it believes no class A TV stations outside the 140 km protected radius from LA County’s radio systems would be adversely affected by the public service allocation. Likewise, it said LA County would not be adversely affected by class A operation in San Diego. A KPBS application for digital class A operation on channel 15 was dismissed by the FCC due to Mexican objections, but is under reconsideration that appears not to be affected by this latest FCC order.

The FCC did not provide a solution for wireless auxiliary and microphone users, saying that such devices are “offered no protection” under the current rules.