Update on Wireless Mic Frequencies
Phil Hodson, Director of Project Engineering
In 2014 we blogged about the FCC selling off additional UHF broadcast frequencies to the highest bidder again, (visit “Wireless Mic Frequencies”, July 16, 2014). After much yelling and screaming, even lawsuits that auction has occurred. It is time to move again—maybe. Anything purchased from us (ESCO) after July, 2014, had frequencies chosen so as to be below the expected point of concern (essentially 600 MHz Megahertz (MHz) and up). You may take some comfort in knowing that the United Kingdom is going through their own version of this as well. Perhaps not too much comfort as it is still painful.
A large cell phone company was the successful bidder of the majority of the spectrum throughout the United States. In the Indianapolis area it is expected that this large auction winner will be going on line sometime in 2017 utilizing the 622 to 627 MHz and the 668 to 678 MHz section of the spectrum. The other successful bidders are not expected to be as aggressive in utilizing the spectrum they have purchased the rights to access, but they will be.
When they do take possession by broadcasting, any device operating on those frequencies other than their own devices will be considered ‘operating illegally’. This is regardless of the published July, 2020, mandatory move deadline. Besides being out of conformance with the law, anything attempting to operate in that part of the RF spectrum will not operate well. At best, operational range will be reduced, or worse, dropouts can occur or it just will not work. We should point out that it is not just wireless microphones that will be affected, but it will be any wireless device. If you have a wireless, in-ear monitor system, or a production intercom transmitting in that range, those will also be in operational jeopardy, and could put you in legal jeopardy as well.
Now is the time to look at where you are transmitting with those devices and move that frequency to below 614MHz (if it has that agile ability). Also know that locating an open frequency will be difficult as any television station currently using a frequency above 600Mhz has to relocate to a lower frequency assignment making an already crowded TV broadcast space even more crowded. Our devices broadcast between the commercial stations.
If your system cannot be tuned to a usable spot below 600MHz, there is a bit of hope. Some devices can be sent to the manufacture to be updated to another block of frequencies for a fee. If that is not your case several manufactures are actually offering a rebate program to ease the pain of a new system.
As a result of the crowding of the UHF spectrum we are seeing a resurgence of devices using the VHF area of the spectrum. That along with other higher frequency options are all in play. It is interesting that we have come full circle as VHF is where the wireless microphone industry first started transmitting in 1955.
It is a real mess—if you need us to, we will be glad to help you sort through it, just give us a call.
Phil Hodson is currently the director of Project Engineering with ESCO Communications having been with the company for over 26 years. He has 43 years in the communications field from touring to designing. He also holds a BASEET and is one of the few NICET Level III certified people in Low Voltage Communications in Indiana.