Channel sharing allows two television stations to “share” a single over-the-air (OTA) broadcast television frequency band. Their content is combined into a single, digital stream that is capable of carrying both high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) services. Recently, CTIA—The Wireless Association and Los Angeles television stations KLCS and KJLA announced that they will provide data regarding channel sharing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). By doing so, they are responding to the FCC’s request for information about the technical and legal arrangements necessary to implement such programming. The goal of the pilot program is to show that channel sharing will allow the same—as well as enhanced—quality content while reducing infrastructure costs.

In their channel pilot project report, which was released last month, KLCS and KJLA showed that channel sharing is a viable option for broadcasters. Specifically, they found that physical- and virtual-level channel sharing is achievable. In addition, two HD streams can be combined onto a single channel. Two HD streams and one SD stream also may be combined without decreasing quality. Three HD streams may be combined onto a single channel. Plus, one HD stream may be combined with many SD streams—up to seven when tested in a single Advanced Television System Committee (ATSC).

The report cautions that a careful transition to a repacked television band must be guaranteed for a positive viewer experience. When it comes to channel sharing, however, KJLA and KLCS agree that there are no adverse effects on over-the-air audiences. The progress of channel sharing should be buoyed by the FCC’s Incentive Auction, which will allow the wireless industry to purchase additional spectrum.