What’s happening with 700 MHz?

The FCC ruling yesterday really took most of us inside the Pro Audio industry. There was widespread expectation that the FCC would make a ruling on the now-ancient-history subject of 700 MHz, something to the effect that “It’s now illegal to use these frequencies.”

They didn’t.

I’m told by industry insiders that there is a proposal out there to that effect, but that the proposal has not been implemented. (What did happen, is that the big winner – Verizon – has had some hurdles removed that allow the FCC to accept their 28 Billion dollar payment and give them the licenses to use those frequencies.)

We all expect that they will make this decision sooner or later, and that wireless mics will eventually be disallowed in that frequency group.

But they have not yet made that decision.

And it may take time to make that decision. It will take time to implement that decision. And it will take time, I am told, for the technologies that require that decision to be developed.

Yes, the 700 MHz band has been sold. The new owners paid a lot of money for it. But they are not yet using their new purchase. In fact, they can’t yet.

The technology that will be used there has not been developed, licensed, manufactured or sold. In fact, it may not be entirely invented yet.

When that technology is implemented, many professionals are thinking that it will be something akin to cell technology: towers and high-powered broadcast signals blanketing the country. Assuming that this is the direction that they go, their high-powered signals will completely overwhelm the poor wireless microphone in your sanctuary or portable system. The rule won’t be necessary: mics will cease to work.

So there are two dates looming over us: the day that they tell us to stop using the frequencies, and the day that the frequencies cannot be used.

There are a lot of wireless users that will stop using their 700 MHz mics when the FCC says to. But I’ve heard from a number of individuals who say, “I’m going to keep using mine until they get the new technology in place. I have no interest in selling them!”

Indeed, the FCC appears to have no interest in policing the 700 MHz bandwidth for 50 milliwatt violators, so it appears that they will get away with it just fine.

The bottom line: don’t throw out your 700 MHz wireless just yet. It could be useful for a good long time yet.