Wireless 600MHz Incentive Auction Update (USA)

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
My understanding is that the "type acceptance" of transmitters capable of tuning to now-licensed frequencies is revoked and those transmitters cannot be used under Part 74 or Part 15 (IOW, by us).

We unlicensed users made as much noise as we could (with key technical assistance from Sennheiser, Lectrosonics, Shure and other manufacturers) but ultimately we were up against the big 3 cell phone providers, a handful of "rent-a-tower" operators, and the producer$ who create and $ell the content that will occupy this spectrum. I find it ironic that we all create large spectacular productions that seem to get reduced to a 5 inch screen...

Part of the abruptness for our minority use of the spectrum is that both the reverse and forward auctions had to be concluded first; there were multiple iterations of the reverse auction. Once it was all done the FCC had to determine the order to reallocate TV stations in adjacent markets; the way the forward auction played out, the same bands were not sold in every market. Chess, anyone? At any rate it was that process that dictated when the auction winners could begin lighting up their new plunder and when we'd have to stop using their spectrum.
 

CrazyTechie

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Salt Lake City, UT
Just want to circle back around to this. If I'm reading everything correctly. Any microphones operating in the duplex band between 657mhz and 663mhz or the guard band of 614-616 are legal? I'm looking at an Audio Technica Mic that has 10 channel options including: 659.375, 660.00, and 662.125. It appears using it on those frequencies is legal.

This mic can also do 656.125 mhz in the duplex gap but that appears to be illegal as it's reserved for licensed wireless microphone use.

Does that appear to be correct? Or are these devices banned because they have the capability of operating outside of legal range?

The FCC has done a terrible job with this transition. "You have to stop in July of 2020, or sooner if T-mobile feels like it"... is not exactly a recipe for a smooth transition.
I would be a little hesitant to operate in the gap unless you really need to have more microphones. The gaps exist as a means of preventing interference from the uplink and downlink sections of the band plan, which means there could be interference for you in that spectrum. The joys of part 15 dictate that you have to accept any and all of that interference. You also have to be careful that you don't cause any interference to other licensed users, as that is where you'll get into trouble with the FCC.

There are other restrictions in that area as well such as lower max power output (20mW max) so keep that in mind. You may not get the same range out of those units as your other gear.

It seems that the band plan has both licensed and unlicensed areas. 614-616 MHz and 657 to 663 MHz are setup to be unlicensed and 653 to 657 MHz require a license to operate in. It seems that to get a license, you have to use 50 wireless microphones or more routinely.

As far as the AT mic that you are looking at--following the rules I've learned as an amateur radio operator--you can listen in any frequency all you want, but when you start transmitting you'd better make sure to do it right! Meaning, if you don't have a license, don't broadcast on frequencies that require a license. So as long as you don't use those frequencies, I'd wager you're fine.

I've pieced this info together from the following links for your viewing pleasure:
https://www.fcc.gov/general/wireless-microphones-0
https://en-us.sennheiser.com/spectrum

And, since I've now got my ham radio hat on,
73
 

manuallyfocused

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Apr 27, 2010
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Does anyone know if the Sennheiser or Shure rebates would apply to non-working equipment? I can't find any mention on either website of whether the trade-in needs to be functional, just that it needs to operate in the 600 mhz range.
 

JJBerman

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Jul 10, 2014
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Middleton, Wisconsin
Does anyone know if the Sennheiser or Shure rebates would apply to non-working equipment? I can't find any mention on either website of whether the trade-in needs to be functional, just that it needs to operate in the 600 mhz range.
My earlier post mentioned a Shure webinar that if I remin the webinar Shure stated they will take all gear including nonfunctioning.

Shure did a webinar explaining some of this, I think this is the right one
 

AudJ

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Upstate NY
Does anyone know if the Sennheiser or Shure rebates would apply to non-working equipment? I can't find any mention on either website of whether the trade-in needs to be functional, just that it needs to operate in the 600 mhz range.
When I talked to a Sennheiser rep recently, I asked a question about voltage compatibility. He suggested plugging in one of the old units prior to sending it in for rebate. If it blew, then it wouldn’t matter, and we would know.

Not saying this is their policy, but the guy I spoke to clearly didn’t care if the stuff worked.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
Newer info regarding the T-Mobile roll out of 600mHz cellular data services...

http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,164023.msg1528316.html#msg1528316

Henry Cohen of RadioActiv and CP Comms has updated his posts, the highlights are:

1. Testing phase for new equipment will be on the order of a day, then full on service;
2. Some major markets/metro areas will be lighting up as early as 2nd Quarter 2018;
3. C & D freq blocks will probably go live before other blocks.

Other auction winner activity is largely unknown and it is not likely they will notify others outside broadcasters.

"Say hello to progress and goodbye to the 600mHz band" - with a nod to John Malcom Penn's "Moonlight Motor Inn"
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
My understanding is that, if the mic can operate in the illegal range it is illegal to use.
Yes, and the reason for that is the transmitter's "Type Acceptance" has been revoked.
 

Silicon_Knight

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Jul 20, 2015
Location
TX
My understanding is that, if the mic can operate in the illegal range it is illegal to use.
This is also my understanding of the rulings. Of course, it seems like enforcement of usage like this (gear capable of illegal freq, but operating on legal freq) is likely to be very difficult - unless some investigator is already in a facility looking at the equipment for some other reason (e.g. an actual transmission violation).

OTOH, selling gear with 600MHz transmission capability is also illegal, and would be much easier to enforce.
 

MNicolai

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I haven't yet seen any mechanism in place for how they'll permit type acceptance conformance for existing systems.

There is some space in 600 MHz for licensed and unlicensed use at restricted transmit levels. From my conversations with both Shure and Sennheiser it seems at least the big manufacturers are planning to push new firmware on their higher end product lines to restrict down to below 600MHz, but it's unclear how the FCC or the manufacturers will handle the licensed and unlicensed operating range within the duplex gap. If that feature is open to everyone, or if you have to buy a system that's specially band-limited to that duplex gap.

I don't know if you'll have to register your serial number with the manufacturer to show that you've upgraded. Also don't know if that means you have to put new stickers on your transmitters to show their operating range is compliant.
 

TimMc

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My understanding, from Henry Cohen (formerly Production Radio, now of RadioActive Designs), is that only manufacturers can certify that the product imeets its Type Accepted. I don't see Shure or Sennheiser allowing end users to modify the transmitter (firmware, hardware, etc) as that act, by itself, revokes the type acceptance of an individual transmitter. And even if they did allow it I don't see how they could certify to the FCC that each and every modified transmitter does, in fact, meet the Type requirements without exception.
 

MNicolai

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My understanding, from Henry Cohen (formerly Production Radio, now of RadioActive Designs), is that only manufacturers can certify that the product imeets its Type Accepted. I don't see Shure or Sennheiser allowing end users to modify the transmitter (firmware, hardware, etc) as that act, by itself, revokes the type acceptance of an individual transmitter. And even if they did allow it I don't see how they could certify to the FCC that each and every modified transmitter does, in fact, meet the Type requirements without exception.
Both Shure and Sennheiser lobbied the FCC hard to permit field modification, and the FCC approved that decision. Nobody may have implemented that upgrade path yet, but presumably they will be.

From the ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION AND FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING, dated June 22, 2017, which seems to answer my question as well about how stickers and FCC ID's will be corrected on the transmitters.

We also revise our requirements concerning the use by unlicensed wireless microphone users of existing/legacy equipment that was originally certified under Part 74 and designed to operate on frequencies that include frequencies in the 600 MHz service band. Specifically, to the extent that such equipment can be, and is, effectively modified (e.g., through software changes) and certified as compliant with the new Part 15 rules, we will permit unlicensed wireless microphone users to continue to use the modified equipment, which will only operate on frequencies permitted for their use, after the end of the post-auction transition period. We agree with Shure and Sennheiser that unlicensed wireless microphone users should not have to have to discard existing or legacy equipment simply because it originally had been designed to operate, at least in part, on frequencies that become repurposed for the 600 MHz wireless services following the auction. As discussed above, these manufacturers have represented that many wireless microphone models, which have been certified under Part 74, have the capability to be modified in the field to change the frequency range of operations to match the reconfigured band plan determined in the incentive auction (with respect to the TV bands, the 600 MHz guard band and duplex gap, and the 600 MHz service band) and comply with the applicable technical rules for wireless microphone operations under the revised Part 74 and/or new Part 15 rules.138 Accordingly, we will allow manufacturers to modify this existing Part 74-certified wireless microphone equipment so that the equipment is no longer capable of operating in the 600 MHz service band and can be certified under the Part 15 rules (for operation in the TV bands and the 600 MHz guard band and duplex gap under prescribed rules, including compliance with the applicable output power limits and ETSI emission mask).139 If, for instance, these modifications can be accomplished through software changes to devices that remain in the field (e.g., through downloaded software changes), then we will permit manufacturers to obtain approval through the permissive change process, and indicate under the existing FCC ID number for that device that, with the modification, the device would be Part 15 compliant.140 Similarly, for any existing/legacy Part 74-certified equipment that originally was designed to operate only in parts of the current TV bands that remain available for unlicensed wireless microphone operations but would not otherwise be compliant with the new Part 15 rules, we allow wireless microphone manufacturers to modify such equipment to make necessary changes (e.g., modifications to comply with the specified lower output power limits in the guard bands and duplex gap) so that it can comply with the Part 15 rules for such use. To the extent that no equipment modification or hardware changes are necessary (e.g., the existing/legacy equipment operates only on reconfigured TV band spectrum) and the equipment meets the other technical requirements for Part 15 operations (e.g., maximum output power levels and ETSI emission mask), then the manufacturer can file the necessary application for permissive change to establish this, and the record associated with the FCC ID number for this previously certified Part 74 device can be updated to reflect that the device is compliant with the Part 15 rules.141 After the end of the post-auction transition period unlicensed wireless microphone users will be permitted to operate existing/legacy wireless microphone equipment provided that the necessary steps have been taken so that it has been certified as compliant with the applicable Part 15 rules.


Footnotes:
139 If the necessary changes require any hardware changes to the device, then the manufacturer can make those changes to the equipment, and we would issue a new FCC ID number certifying the device as compliant with the new Part 15 rules for unlicensed wireless microphones.
 

Jay Ashworth

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St Pete FL USA
So, translated, Mike, that means "if you have frequency agile mics that include both freqs which will be usable, and those which won't, and your manufacturer can ship you replacement firmware and you can install it, such that they can then only transmit in the freqs we're leaving you, you can do that legally"?
 

MNicolai

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Eventually, yes.

Won't be available for every product series, but the the higher $$ your units are, the better your chances of having that option.
 

TimMc

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Both Shure and Sennheiser lobbied the FCC hard to permit field modification, and the FCC approved that decision. Nobody may have implemented that upgrade path yet, but presumably they will be.

From the ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION AND FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING, dated June 22, 2017, which seems to answer my question as well about how stickers and FCC ID's will be corrected on the transmitters.

Thanks for the update, and I should have checked with Henry before attributing - my conversation with him was prior to the FCC order you cite.
 

JD

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Would be a simple matter of flashing the firmware on most units. I know the Sennheiser's have a data port to do that. (most) Still, I fear there is greater financial incentive to sell you a new system. Considering a G3 goes from about $600 to $1000 depending on features, and the only trade in offered was about $100, it kind of makes me sick to throw out perfectly good stuff.
So far, I have not seen any promotion on providing software to make old 600Mhz units compliant. At this point, I don't have any left, but it would still be nice to see that option out there before the door slams shut.(Which for many of us has already happened.)
 
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dicgleason

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Sep 14, 2009
Does anyone know if the Sennheiser or Shure rebates would apply to non-working equipment? I can't find any mention on either website of whether the trade-in needs to be functional, just that it needs to operate in the 600 mhz range.
When this happened before, Shure rebated all our wireless we turned in. Transmitters and receivers, but not the capsules on the transmitters. I have plenty of standby, extra capsules, SM58, Beta58, and 87C. (not for sale). I know at least one of the receivers did not work and no one asked about it. I was trading in 88 complete systems and replacing them with new so that might have been part of the reason. I was told the old units were headed overseas where the FCC doesn't have control.
 

JJBerman

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This week Shure extended their rebate to items purchased on or before October 31 2018.
If you are thinking about getting Shure gear you have an extra 6 months!

Of course this happened just after we bought 8 ULX-D systems to replace our 8 in the 600mhz spectrum.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
When this happened before, Shure rebated all our wireless we turned in. Transmitters and receivers, but not the capsules on the transmitters. I have plenty of standby, extra capsules, SM58, Beta58, and 87C. (not for sale). I know at least one of the receivers did not work and no one asked about it. I was trading in 88 complete systems and replacing them with new so that might have been part of the reason. I was told the old units were headed overseas where the FCC doesn't have control.
The issue isn't so much the FCC as they are following a Congressional mandate to monetize the inefficiently used broadcast TV spectrum. The content makers (TV producers, movie studios, Google (YouTube), Netflix and other creators/distributors lobbied hard to get this spectrum as it penetrates buildings and other obstructions far better than higher frequencies. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

The FCC was not acting in an arbitrary or capricious manner - they were doing what the Legislative branch of government told them to do, which was to make a handful of major corporations much, much richer by selling 10 year licenses to spectrum that was relatively vacant in all but the top 20 TV markets.

Also note that EVERY country has an equivalent of the FCC who deals with its RF issues according to any international treaties to which it may be a signatory, and for local interests to be managed. While we may not like what our FCC does (and the current membership is tilted heavily toward corporate profits over public interest, IMHO), it's an open process subject to lawsuits and Legislative correction. If you're really unhappy with having to buy new wireless equipment you need to look back nearly 30 years to see why other users have far, far more influence than our industry.
 

macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
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San Francisco, CA
Sennheiser's trade in deal seems to be way better than Shure's. The trade in value isn't linked to the model of the wireless being turned in, but based on the wireless being purchased.

  1. Send your old wireless, sales receipt, UPC code and completed trade-in form to the address listed on the form. To be

eligible, your traded wireless equipment must operate in the 600 MHz band. Any manufacturer, make or model will be

accepted for trade-in rebate, provided it operates in 600 MHz.
 

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