New rules now in effect for operating wireless microphones and similar devices will restrict their use in certain bands of the spectrum currently used for television broadcast. As a result, some equipment changes may be needed for local theaters, churches, schools, conference centers, sports stadiums and other users of such devices.
Wireless mics and similar devices are designed to tune and operate on certain frequencies known as "spectrum bands." Most wireless mics today operate in the various unused portions of the broadcast television bands, including both VHF and UHF channels. They can be operated on either on a licensed basis, for qualifying users, or on an unlicensed basis, open to all who use the appropriate equipment, provided that users follow the applicable rules for operation on designated spectrum bands.
Changes to operations on frequencies in the 600 MHz service band
To meet increasing demand for wireless broadband services nationwide, the FCC recently auctioned spectrum that had been licensed to broadcast television stations operating on TV Channels 38-51. The results of the auction (completed in April 2017) will affect the availability of spectrum for wireless microphone operation on the 600 MHz frequencies that correspond to these TV channels, specifically the 614-698 MHz frequencies. Most of these 600 MHz frequencies have been repurposed for new 600 MHz service wireless operations (specifically, the 617-652 MHz and 663-698 MHz frequencies).
The FCC has established a time period to help smooth the transition of wireless microphone operations out of the 600 MHz service band to other available frequencies. Specifically, the FCC allows users to continue operations on the 600 MHz service band under certain conditions until July 13, 2020. However, users must not cause harmful interference, either to the existing broadcast television operations or to the 600 MHz service wireless licensees' operations in the band. In addition, users are not entitled to any interference protection from broadcast television and 600 MHz service licensees.
Several NAMM member companies have been tracking and reporting on this development for years. NAMM will continue to gather and post relevant information regarding regulatory compliance, here at NAMM.org.
Federal Communications Commission Broadcast Transition Page
Progress Report: The Changing Wireless Spectrum & Music Retailers. Music and Sound Retailer, August, 2014
FCC's TV-for-Mobile Auction Is Starting: What You Need to Know. FORTUNE.com, March, 2016
Sennheiser Spectrum Affairs 600Mhz Site
Shure Incentive Auction Resource Center Video “600 MHz Auction: What Happened?”
Background and Resources:
- FCC Auction Realigns Use of the Public’s Airwaves
In March 2016, the FCC began an “incentive auction” designed to repurpose the broadcast spectrum for new uses. By making valuable “low-band” airwaves available for wireless broadband, the auction will reduce congestion on wireless networks. Bidding in the auction closed on March 30, 2017, repurposing 84 megahertz of spectrum – 70 megahertz for licensed use and another 14 megahertz for wireless microphones and unlicensed use. For more details, visit the FCC Information Page or the FCC Broadcast Incentive Auction Information Page.
NAMM member companies Sennheiser, Shure and others have been very proactive regarding the issue and offer industry-relevant updates and resources to adapt to upcoming changes in the wireless landscape.