The most recent FCC spectrum auction caused many OTA TV stations in the US to share channels, move frequencies, go off air, or move to lo – VHF spectrum. My hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was affected by this change with many channels shuffling RF frequencies over the past few years. A few notable examples are WPXI moving from RF 48 to RF 23, WTAE moving from RF 51 to RF 27 and a few others. These changes were not terrible though because they were all still in the UHF spectrum and did not require an antenna change. The one I am going to talk about today is WQED moving from RF 13 to RF 4. This does require an antenna change and most people do not realize this. It is also very unfortunate that very few lo -VHF antennas are actually sold in stores.
News articles from the stations explaining the switch:
When WQED was on hi – VHF 13 most antennas could pick it up relatively well. Also most antennas sold in stores the past couple years, including the one in the picture above, are either UHF only, or a combination of hi – VHF and UHF. Most digital stations stayed off of lo – VHF because of the larger antennas needed to pick up the signal and because of interference possibilities. WQED was offered 9.9 Million to move to the more interference prone RF channel 4 and they accepted.
When I originally set this antenna up I figured I could place it anywhere in my attic due to my location being so close to Pittsburgh and the broadcast towers. I am less than 2 miles away from the KDKA/WPCW tower and the WPNT/WPGH tower. I can see both clearly from my house. The rest are under 15 miles away including WQED at 5 miles in Oakland.
So it was a surprise to me that when I ran a channel scan for the first time WQED was one of the lowest quality stations. Even though it’s tower was only 5 miles away. It actually could barely lock in the signal reliably. I didn’t believe my tvheadend server so I checked on an actual TV. The TV was no better. I knew I needed a solution because I actually do watch WQED or one of its sub channels on occasion. The solution came to me when I realized my RCA antenna was only made for hi – VHF and UHF. Not lo – VHF. To fix this I knew I needed to make the elements longer. To figure out just how long I used a dipole calculator for 69Mhz (RF ch4).
To receive WQED reliably I needed to make sure the last element on the antenna was about 6.6 feet long and 3.3 feet on each side. This is why lo – VHF is not preferred. This antenna was going to be huge now. Since this antenna is in my attic though I really do not care what it looks like. It just has to work reliably with little to no maintenance. I had some left over romex cable from a plug I installed that would work perfectly. I cut it to the appropriate length and tied it on to the end of the elements with ethernet cable. I know redneck engineering at its best!
After I tested this new addition I was able to receive WQED at 100%. quality.
As more and more stations get bought out and move to lo – VHF this problem may only get worse for cord cutters. I hope by getting this information out there I help somebody who is having the same problem I had.