This FCC Update Could Change How You Use Wireless Microphones

Wireless Microphones

If you think you have more time to replace those 600 MHz-band wireless microphones in the sanctuary, think again. Your wireless microphones might stop working as soon as tomorrow. In some cases, it’s already a problem.

Backstory

Originally, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), auctioned airspace in the 600 MHz band. Users of wireless systems like microphones, in-ear monitors and intercom systems were to have until the year 2020 to vacate that space.

The auction resulted in frequencies from 614 to 698 MHz being auctioned to companies, including cell phone companies like T-Mobile.

What’s really happening

Dan Daley posted up this article that highlights how the auction winners are already using this space despite the notice sent by the FCC that we’d have a few years to comply. Check out the below highlights from the article.

Joe Ciaudelli, director of spectrum affairs at Sennheiser, said, “The year 2020 might seem far off, but because spectrum buyers can begin using their new bandwidth as soon as it’s paid for, wireless microphone users…are going to feel the impact sooner than others.”

And it’s proving true!

According to the article, just before a live event at a theater in Manhattan was to start, all the wireless microphones were disrupted by a 600-MHz cellular-phone signal that turned on in the building. Fortunately, the “on-site RF coordinator identified the source and the operator of the 600-MHz transmission node cooperated and turned off.”

What companies are quick to use their newly purchased airspace? Cell phone providers. Before we start throwing stones, we must recognize the growth of wireless technology and our love of checking email, Facebook, Instagram and even remote mixing comes at a price.

Stop Working?

So will your microphones really stop working if someone starts using the 600-band in your area? You’ll be subject to either non-stop interference or you’ll be open to the possibility of interference during usage. In my book, that renders the microphones useless. If there’s a possibility of interference then I’m replacing the microphone. Are you willing to risk interference during your church service? During the sermon?

A Little Relief

As an update from a reader who discovered this on the FCC’s web site:

Many frequencies in the TV bands that had been available for wireless microphone use prior to the auction will continue to be available after the transition period. These include:

  • VHF and UHF frequencies on TV channels 2-36, which fall below 608 MHz.
  • Certain frequencies in the 600 MHz guard band: 614-616 MHz.
  • Certain frequencies in the 600 MHz duplex gap: 653-657 MHz for licensed use or 657-663 MHz for unlicensed use.

If your wireless microphones can be set to use frequencies in these small areas, you can get a little relief. And please note the difference between licensed and unlicensed. Unless you have a license specific for your location, you’re unlicensed.

Canada and Mexico

While the ruling is specific for the USA, people within 50 miles of the border might want to prepare as well because cell tower coverage can overlap in some areas.

The Good News

A few companies are providing rebates on wireless microphones. If you have microphones that use the 600 band, the below companies are willing to cut you a break. Links are to their rebate pages.

This article originally appeared here.

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Chris Huff
Chris Huff is the author of Audio Essentials for Church Sound. He also teaches all aspects of live audio production, from the technical fundamentals to creative music mixing to keeping your sanity. Find out more at www.behindthemixer.com