Last Fall, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans for an incentive auction of the 608 to 698 MHz UHF spectrum — the previous UHF TV channels 36 through 51. Many of these frequencies in this 600 MHz band are used by professional audio users, whether for wireless mics, IEM's, intercoms and IFB talent cueing systems.
Ironically, some of these affected systems migrated to those frequencies after the FCC's previous “reallocation” of TV channels 52 to 69 (the so-called “700 MHz band” from 698 to 806 MHz) in 2008, which were made illegal for pro wireless applications after June 12, 2010. But a recent change at the FCC may spell some good news for pro wireless users.
Major telecom providers —among them ATT and Verizon — have been anxious to snag every bit of that bandwidth, and with billions of dollars at stake (possibly as high as $20B), it is unlikely that pro audio users could possibly compete in a bidding war against these corporate giants. However, leading manufacturers of pro wireless have been very active in working with the FCC to make the commission aware of the needs of our industry and there may be a ray of hope on the horizon.
The first good news came from a recent announcement by FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler that the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction — originally scheduled to begin in 2014 — has been rescheduled to next year, which hopefully would give the FCC more time to examine the issue.
Stage Directions recently spoke to Shure VP Mark Brunner, seeking an update on the reallocation proceedings from the pro industry's standpoint.
“As you know, the FCC is planning further auctions of the UHF television spectrum,” Brunner explains. “Those auctions have now been moved back to mid-2015, with a report in order sometime in the late spring regarding the rules of the incentive auction, which will indicate how much of the UHF band will be made available for auction to licensed users and the telecom companies — ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile — and the future rules relating to wireless microphone operations. Many things are under consideration here — reserved channels for wireless microphone operation, their future and the future status of those channels; also guard-band access between the licensed swaths of spectrum and how much of that could be made available for wireless microphone use. These are open issues the FCC is considering right now.”
And the pro audio community is united in this regard. “The wireless microphone industry and many of the manufacturers are in discussions now to put forward plans and ideas forward to the FCC on the best way for our industry, indicating our needs and our use of UHF spectrum on a daily basis across a variety of industries,” Brunner continues. “The industry and Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and Lectrosonics remain committed to putting the best foot forward for our users and making sure the commission is aware of our issues. We will continue to advocate for wireless microphone operations and protections going forward as further spectrum decisions are made.”
For more info, visit fcc.gov.