LBA Group has asked the Federal Communications Commission to speed up broadband deployment by promoting wireless antenna collocation on AM towers. How? By cutting local red tape for collocations and halving the annual AM fee for station owners who allow use of their towers.

The Sept. 30 filing in WC Docket No. 11-59 is LBA’s latest effort to help win over the industry to AM collocation as an engineered response to the shortage of wireless antenna placements. Commissioners were told that, with an estimated ten thousand AM radio station towers across the country, literally thousands of opportunities exist to “economically and reliably affix wireless antennae to AM towers without degrading or altering the radiation power of the AM station.”

This is not theory. LBA has engineered, patented, and successfully applied collocation technology.  The AM colocation process of sharing these structures is cost-effective and technically feasible.  An isolation device specially engineered for a type of AM tower is simply attached to a tower and to the wireless broadband system. Normally, no other significant changes are required to either system.

Yet resistance to this common-sense solution hangs around like a migraine. As the language in the filing puts it: “There is simply too much embedded ignorance, fear, uncertainty and inertia for the two industries to come together to take a step that would be in their mutual interests.” To help overcome all of the above, LBA proposed to the FCC that it introduce four additional encouragements for wireless operators and AM station owners:

  • Promote collocation through press releases and workshops, targeting both AM broadcasters and wireless providers. Without actually ordering collocation, the FCC could popularize it as a solution simply by raising general awareness of its utility. With the commission’s official stamp of approval on collocation, perhaps fence-sitting station owners and providers will take another look at it.
  • Pre-empt state or local governments from requiring new permits for AM tower modifications so long as the change qualifies as collocation under the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas. If local review is a reform too far, the FCC might at least require that such review be speedily concluded, perhaps within two weeks. This either would hasten completion of a project or, if a permit were denied, begin the appeals process in a timely way.
  • Reduce the AM station regulatory fee by 50 percent when station owners allow broadband antennae on their towers. When a subsequent regulatory fee was due, the owner simply would provide a photo of an affixed antenna and be granted the discount.
  • Streamline the STA process—if even required during an AM collocation project—by giving expedited approval to the STA approval, and waiving the STA fee normally collected.

LBA simply believes that the need to expand broadband fits perfectly with the need of AM station owners to produce more revenue from their towers. As the filing stated, “If even a fraction of the ten thousand AM towers are put to this use, the Commission will have taken a presently dormant resource and vitalized it for a new, forward-looking purpose.” Everyone wins.

Almost as an aside, LBA noted in its filing that failure to utilize existing AM towers as a broadband expansion resource makes the public less safe. That’s because collocating antennae on existing AM towers would, in many cases, close gaps in the 911 emergency response system, creating a more integrated, effective system.

Since 1963, LBA has been providing RF equipment and engineering consulting services for radio and television broadcast and wireless communications. Contact Mike Britner at mike.britner@lbagroup.com to discuss your AM co-location application.

About The Author

LBA Group

LBA Group, Inc. has 50 years of experience in providing RF asset solutions and risk management for industrial and telecommunications infrastructure assets. The group is comprised of LBA Technology, a leading manufacturer and integrator of radio frequency systems, lightning protection, and EMC equipment for broadcast, industrial and government users worldwide; the professional engineering consultancy Lawrence Behr Associates, and LBA University, providing on-site and online professional training. The companies are based in Greenville, N.C., USA.

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