What’s Really In The TV Bands?

The TV Bands in the United States get a lot of use, despite what you might think based on the White Spaces proceedings in the past few years. Some of it may be obvious, but other users might be downright surprising. This post is an attempt at a comprehensive list of users of the TV Bands in the United States.

Before we begin, here is a list of channels and what frequencies they correspond to:
2-4: 54-72 MHz
5-6: 76-88 MHz
7-13: 174-216 MHz
14-36: 470-608 MHz
38-51: 614-698 MHz


Digital TV (Full Power)
There are your typical standard Digital TV stations, and the most obvious users of the TV bands in the US. Full power DTV stations can operate on any TV channel.

These are covered in Part 73 of the FCC’s rules.

Low Power TV Stations (Digital and Analog)
Low power TV stations are television stations which are designed to serve local communities. THese types of stations are not offered protection from interference from full power or Class A TV stations. LPTV stations may currently broadcast in digital (ATSC) or analog (NTSC) and can operate on any TV channel.

LPTV stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart G of the FCC’s rules.

Translator TV Stations (Digital or Analog)
Translator stations are low power TV stations that are designed to fill in coverage holes in full power TV stations. They broadcast the same material as the full-power station all the time, but operate on a different physical channel. Translator stations may currently broadcast in digital (ATSC) or analog (NTSC) and can operate on any TV channel.

LPTV stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart G of the FCC’s rules.

Booster TV Stations (Digital)
Booster TV stations are co-channel, synchronized simultaneous transmitters for a full power TV station. Unlike translators, boosters operate on the same frequency and fully within the coverage area of a Full Power TV station.

LPTV stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart G of the FCC’s rules.

Class A TV Stations (Digital and Analog)
Class A TV stations are similar to Low Power TV Stations, but they are afforded the same protection that a Full Power TV station receives. Class A stations may currently broadcast in digital (ATSC) or analog (NTSC) and can operate on any TV channel.

Class A stations are defined in Part 73 Subpart J of the FCC’s rules.

TV Intercity Relay Stations, TV STL, and TV Translator Relay
Intercity Relay Stations are directional, point-to-point television stations which are designed to send television content from one place to another (ostensibly, from one city to another). These can operate in a number of bands, but do operate also in the TV Bands.

TV Intercity Relay stations are denoted by “TI” in the ULS.
TV STL stations are denoted by “TS” in the ULS.
TV Translator Relay stations are denoted by “TT” in the ULS.

As of Feb 2, 2011, there are 222 active licenses for TV Relay, TV STL, and TV Translator Relay stations in the US between 470 MHz and 698 MHz.

Class A stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart F of the FCC’s rules.

Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) Stations
BAS stations include wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, and other similar devices needed in the field. They typically use very low power (less than 250 mW) and are used in an itinerant basis. BAS stations can operate on any TV channel, but typically operate between TV 7 and 51.

BAS stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart H of the FCC’s rules.

Public Land Mobile Radio Service (PLMRS)
In a number of major cities in the US, up to 3 TV channels between 14 and 20 are allocated for Land Mobile Radio (LMR), also known as two-way radio. This includes two-way radio as well as paging. These cities are:

City TV Channels Frequencies (MHz)
Boston, MA 14, 16 470-476, 482-488
Chicago, IL 14, 15 470-476, 476-482
Cleveland, OH 14, 15 470-476, 476-482
Dallas/FW, TX 16 482-488
Detroit, MI 15, 16 476-482, 482-488
Houston, TX 17 488-494
Cleveland, OH 14, 15 470-476, 476-482
Los Angeles, CA 14, 16, 20 470-476, 482-488, 506-512
Miami, FL 14 470-476
New York, NY 14, 15, 16 470-476, 476-482, 482-488
Philadelphia, PA 19, 20 500-506, 506-512
Pittsburgh, PA 14, 18 470-476, 494-500
San Fransisco, CA 16, 17 482-488, 488-494
Washington, DC 17, 18 488-494, 494-500

There are also Part 90 stations operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

TV Band LMR stations are defined in Part 90 Subpart L of the FCC’s rules.

TV Band Devices (TVBDs, aka White Space Devices)
TV Band Devices are somewhat low-power data devices which are intended to be used in the TV Bands. They are regulated under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules are will not require a license for operation. As envisioned, these devices will work similarly to Wi-Fi and connect computers and other digital devices at relatively high speed.

These devices are not yet available.

TVBDs are defined in Part 15 Subpart H of the FCC’s rules.

General Part 15 Devices
Intentional radiators are permitted to operate in almost any part of the radio spectrum as long as their power is low enough. These devices generally do not cause interference, but could if they were close enough to a radio receiver.

Part 15 Devices are defined in Part 15 of the FCC’s rules.

Experimental Broadcast Stations
Occasionally, the FCC will authorize an experimental broadcast station under the rules. This typically occurs when the FCC wants to test a new modulation scheme or some other change that won’t fit anywhere else in the FCC’s rules. This last happened when Digital TV first came on the air, but the final rules had not yet been decided.

Experimental Broadcast Stations are defined in Part 74 Subpart A of the FCC’s rules.

Experimental Stations
The FCC routinely issues experimental licenses to organizations, schools, research facilities, and individuals for radio experimentation. These licenses may permit all kinds of different types of transmissions and are valid for two years.

Experimental stations are defined in Part 5 of the FCC’s rules.

Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS)
The WMTS operates on TV Channel 37 (608-614 MHz), and is designed to allow medical devices to transmit information within a medical facility, such as a hospital.

Radio Astronomy
Aside from the WMTS, TV Channel 37 (608-614 MHz) is reserved for radio astronomy observation.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply