Repack: Wilmington NC

#1

According to the chief engineer at a local station, the repack for Wilmington, NC, will be straightforward… at least for the full-power stations. They’ll all go off the air at the end of September 5, and will be up on their new channels in the wee hours of September 6 (EDT). Barring unforeseen events, of course.

Only one low-power station is affected by the repack: WILT-LD has to vacate RF channel 24 to make room for WWAY. Updated Their chief engineer tells me that they plan to take WILT-LD down early, on September 3 (no time of day given), to make the changes. The station will then be brought back up on the morning of September 6.

Bottom line: Wilmington NC viewers simply need to rescan on the morning of September 6 (or later). Nothing else needs to be done. Other than losing WILT for a few days, it should be “business as usual.”


For anyone who might care, the new RF channel spectrum in the Wilmington NC area is (low-power stations in lower-case):

  • 15 wilm/10 Delco
  • 16 WPXU/35 (ION) North Topsail/Jacksonville
  • 20 wdza/20 (probably off-air) Delco
  • 21 WUNJ/39 (PBS)
  • 23 WECT/6 (NBC)
  • 24 WWAY/3 (ABC, CBS, CW+)
  • 29 WSFX/26 (FOX)
  • 33 wilt/24 (wilm-ld repeater) Sand Hill Creek area
  • 35 wtmv/21 (wtmh-ld repeater) Ogden
#2

Wilmington repack delayed!!!

Due to Hurricane Dorian, the FCC has delayed the phase 5 repack by six days. Do the rescan on the morning of Wednesday the 11th.

(Date changed. The local stations apparently are going for the 11th instead of the 12th.)

#3

It looks like the repack mostly failed. The PBS station (WUNJ/39) made the change, with both the old and new channels running simultaneously on the 11th, but nobody else. The commercial network stations are still on their old channels. WILT-LD is still off the air.

I’ve asked one of the engineers what the expected new date will be for the commercial network stations. I’ll pass that along when I get it. I expect he’s tied up with FCC red tape in addition to dealing with whatever technical issues caused the problem.

#4

WILT-LD/24 is back on the air on its new channel, today (September 13, 2019).

The major commercial networks are still running on their old channels. WECT has tweeted, “Attention Antenna Viewers: The date you will need to rescan your TV has been postponed until further notice. We will keep you updated when a new date and time has been determined.”

So much for the expected simple and clean repack changeover.

#5

Hello - Do you Know if the repack delay is impacting signal strength for WWAY (ABC & CBS)? About 2-3 weeks ago I started to get some picture/sound break up. The issues started occurring when WWAY went off the air for a day or two - guessing they were reconfiguring equipment. I’ve verified all connections and even removed splitters.

Thank you for any insights.

#6

I don’t have any inside information. I can confirm that over the past few weeks, I’ve seen some extended outages (or perhaps low-power operation I couldn’t pick up) from WWAY. Usually a day or more at a time. Added: found this explanation from WWAY.

I assume that these outages were unintentional, as they often ran through prime-time viewing hours. Also there’s no STA (temporary authority) for a low-power station, at least not shown at rabbitears.info.

I do know that the old WSFX (Fox 26) transmitter “melted down” in February and had to be replaced with a temporary transmitter, and now it’s being replaced yet again. So I wouldn’t be surprised if WWAY is trying to keep an aging transmitter running until the repack is completed.

Just for information, in case you’re not aware: WWAY, WECT, and WSFX all transmit from the same antenna and transmission line, using a combiner. The original repack plans had WSFX in phase 5 and both WECT and WWAY in phase 7. A request was made (link is PDF) to the FCC (and granted) to coordinate all three into a single phase because changing the stations separately was “untenable.” From what I can tell, the same antenna is being used after the repack as before. I believe the all-or-none issue is the combiner, which has cavities tuned to each of the transmitters’ channels. Their repack filing with the FCC shows a new combiner will be used.

Purely personal speculation: I’m wondering if the problem is due to the plan to continue using the same antenna. Many other repackers, including WUNJ and WILT-LD, changed antennas. I’m guessing from the model number that their current antenna is designed for channels 30-54, which would be fine with the old spread of channels 30-46, but the new spread is from channel 23-29. The repack filing (linked above) said they intended to retune the antenna. They may had trouble getting the antenna retuned, or had an SWR issue or something trying to feed the old antenna. Again, this is just ignorant personal speculation; I don’t work in the broadcast industry and am not particularly knowledgeable on their tech. But if my guess happens to be correct, we may be in for a long delay if they have to order a new antenna and join the crowd of broadcasters trying to get installation contractors in.