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Local TV Stations Changing Frequencies To Accommodate Wireless Carriers

Network affiliates that serve the Champaign/Decatur/Springfield market like WCIA (CBS), WICS (ABC) and WAND (NBC) will be affected by frequency changes in 2020.

Television stations around the country are moving to different broadcast frequencies including multiple stations throughout Illinois.

An important note: even though stations are changing how they send out broadcasts, the channels viewers use to reach them on their TVs will still be the same.  For example, WCIA-TV, the CBS affiliate based in Champaign will remain on channel 3. WAND-TV, the NBC affiliate based in Decatur will remain on channel 17. ABC affiliate WISC-TV in Springfield will remain on channel 20.

WILL-TV, the PBS member station licensed to the University of Illinois will not move to a different broadcast frequency. It is not affected by the changes. WILL-AM 580 and FM 90.9 are also licensed to the U of I.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is mandating the move in order to make room for wireless carriers, who are rapidly expanding into new technologies like 5G. That requires more bandwidth on the nation’s airwaves than is available right now.

FCC spokeswoman Jean Kiddoo says cell phones have made the changes necessary.

“We felt that if we could make that more compact and more efficient, we could free up space for wireless services,” said Kiddoo. “Consumers across the country demand more and more capacity and higher and higher speeds on their wireless devices like their phones and their tablets.”

Some stations, like WCIA-TV and WAND-TV will change in January. Others, like WICS-TV, will be in a later wave in March.

“All that means is that viewers who watch with an antenna are gonna need to watch for announcements from their local stations and re-scan their TV when the change happens,” said Kiddoo.

The FCC is asking more than a thousand stations throughout the country to make the change, and is even helping to pay for equipment upgrades.

Cable users will get their TV service updated automatically. Central Illinois stations affected include:

  • WAND-TV (NBC 17)
  • WBXC-TV (CH 46)
  • WCIA-TV (CBS 3)
  • WCIX-TV (CH 49)
  • WCCU-TV (FOX 27)
  • WEIU-TV (PBS 51)
  • WICS-TV (ABC 20)
  • WRSP-TV (FOX 55)
  • WSEC-TV (PBS 14)
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