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FCC might kill wireless mics

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by Oldschool, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. Oldschool

    Oldschool Member

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    As you know, or should know, on February 19, 2009 the United States will move to Digital Television (DTV) and there will be a shake up of the UHF radio spectrum. What you probably do not know is that as of two weeks ago, the wireless microphone you are using today will probably be illegal to use after 2/19/09.

    I am going to cut and paste some of this information from the FCC into this post and then give you the links so you can go read in on-line yourself.

    Bottom line is that there is a proposal, FCC-08-188, adopted 8/15/08 that states in part….
    ”we tentatively conclude to amend our rules to make clear that the operation of low power auxiliary stations within the 700 MHz Band will no longer be permitted after the end of the DTV transition because such operations could cause harmful interference to new public safety and commercial wireless services in the band. We also tentatively conclude to prohibit the manufacture, import, sale, offer for sale, or shipment of devices that operate as low power auxiliary stations in the 700 MHz Band. In addition, for those licensees that have obtained authorizations to operate low power auxiliary stations in spectrum that includes the 700 MHz Band beyond the end of the
    DTV transition, we tentatively conclude that we will modify these licenses so as not to permit such operations in the 700 MHz Band after February 17, 2009. We also seek comment on issues raised by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) in its informal complaint and petition for rulemaking (“PISC Petition” or “Petition”)…”

    The Press Release from the FCC dated 8/21/08 states in full:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:
    August 21, 2008 Rob Kenny: (202) 418-2668
    Matt Nodine: (202) 418-1646

    FCC PROPOSES THE PROHIBITION OF LOW POWER AUXILIARY STATIONS IN THE 700 MHz BAND AFTER THE DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION

    Proposal Would Protect New Public Safety and Commercial Licensees from Interference

    Washington, D.C. – In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) and Order released today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed prohibiting low power auxiliary stations, including wireless microphones, to operate in the 700 MHz Band after the end of the digital television (DTV) transition on February 17, 2009. The Notice also proposes that the FCC prohibit the manufacture, import, sale, or shipment of devices that operate as low power auxiliary stations in the 700 MHz Band after the end of the DTV transition. These actions would ensure that low power auxiliary operations do not cause harmful interference to new public safety and commercial wireless services in the band.

    Low power auxiliary stations are authorized for such uses as wireless microphones, cue and control communications, and synchronization of TV camera signals. Of the 943 active low power auxiliary station licenses, 156 are currently authorized to operate in the 700 MHz Band. Of those 156 licenses, most are authorized to operate in other spectrum bands as well, and only 30 are authorized to operate only in the 614-806 MHz band, of which the 700 MHz Band is a part. After the end of the DTV transition, low power auxiliary stations would be able to continue operating in additional spectrum bands that allow such operations on a secondary basis, including certain broadcast television channels below 700 MHz.

    Today’s Order also imposed a freeze, effective upon release of the Order, on the filing of new applications for low power auxiliary station license that seek to operate on any 700 MHz Band frequencies after February 17, 2009. The Order imposed a freeze on granting any equipment authorization requests for low power auxiliary station devices that would operate in any of the 700 MHz Band frequencies. The FCC will hold in abeyance, until the conclusion of this proceeding, any pending license applications and equipment authorization requests that involve operation on frequencies in the 700 MHz Band after the end of the DTV transition.
    The draft Notice also seeks comment on various requests recently made by Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) in its Informal Complaint and Petition regarding the use of wireless microphones.

    Action by the Commission on August 15, 2008, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order (FCC 08-188). Chairman Martin and Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate, and McDowell.

    For additional information, contact Paul D’Ari in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at (202) 418-1550 or [email protected].

    OK. In several places the word “tentatively” is used as it relates to these rules changes. Industry experts that I have talked to about this tell me that it is pretty much a fait accompli and any wireless device operating in the 700MHz range is dumpster food.

    Go, read, and then get pissed off!

    Link to the FCC at Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Home Page and scroll down to "FCC Proposes the Prohibition of Low Power Auxiliary Stations in the 700 MHz Band after the Digital Television Transition." link dated 8/21/08

    The FCC is responding to a petition filed by PISC which is the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition.

    Go to Complaint of PISC Against Shure, Inc. et al. and Petition to Create General Wireless Microphone Service | Public Knowledge to read about the PISC petition. You can also go to fohonline.com and read an article by Chris Bray titled "Exactly Who Is Behind Google’s Grab for “White Space?" in their more news section of the FOH magazine website.

    I can not believe this has been in the press for two weeks now and is not getting more coverage. Spread the word through whatever other forums you use. Copy and E-mail this information to others in the industry. Put it out there in your blogs and newsletters.

    There is a 30 day comment window open to us which closes 9/21/08. Make your voice known to the FCC regarding this topic or start buying more XLR cables and wired mics.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2008
    philhaney and (deleted member) like this.
  2. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    FCC might kill wireless mics - also posted in News section

    Yep, that's going to be an interesting one. I have two observations:

    - In any comments we (who may or may not have been using wireless systems) might make, we must not make fools of ourselves.

    - It's early to freak out. We should wait until the R&O comes out around Christmas to freak out. The FCC has, as I see it, three basic courses of action: authorize us to operate as we have, except below 700 megs; create a sandbox somewhere for us to operate on primary basis; or disallow us entirely. Those each have very different implications for us.

    I'll say we need to be aware and be cautious, but also be civil and not Chicken Little.

    I'm watching it, and I've passed the word on to others I know who would be affected .. it's going to be quite a ride, no matter what it is.
     
  3. Oldschool

    Oldschool Member

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    Re: FCC kills the wireless mic - Read this!

    Wayne - Thanks for the level response. I am not advocating anyone freak out or cry the sky is falling either. But, like many of us, I have been following this issue for several years now and it bothers me to no end that the closer we get the more pressure is being placed on those who have the least means to respond. The large corporations can push this down the FCC throat and if we as users do not push back just as hard, it will be us left hold the bag (mic). I am afraid a wait and see attitude is no longer an option and I am advocating everyone to write / call the FCC or their Congressional Representative and let them know how this will effect their organization.
     
  4. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Many wireless headset systems also broadcast in the 700 megahertz range. How will this affect our ability to communicate?
     
  5. Oldschool

    Oldschool Member

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    Yes - anything other then Public Safety will be forbidden in the 700MHz range
     
  6. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    I just sent a note to the AKG tech. He didn't seem too concerned, since this is an evolving process that has been underway for several years now.

    I think the gist of it is that our bodypack transmitters are not really "auxiliary stations" since the signal will not likely make it outside the theater building. So as far as the ban is concerned, I doubt that the FCC will be knocking on theater doors and confiscating transmitters that emit 700MhZ signals. Unless our patrons all bring in digital laptop TVs into the theater, refuse to turn them off as requested in the curtain speech, and then start complaining about the poor picture quality ... ;)

    The bigger concern seems to be the increasing/evolving usage of the 700mHz band by TV transmitters, and the resulting increased interference with our wireless receivers. For this, the AKG tech said they are taking a "wait and see" policy, and based on the experience and feedback of their customers over the next few years will take action accordingly.

    So, my bet is that the bulk of the time the issue will be the same as we have today, RF interference, and try another frequency to work around it.

    And in the much less likely occurrence where someone's wireless is rendered completely inoperable, hopefully in those cases the mfg will allow them to swap it out with another unit that uses a different frequency band (one could only hope).

    Anyway, that's my guess :)

    -- John
     
  7. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I saw the article below on Prosoundweb.com a week or so back. It is very much relater. It is unfortunate that the FCC is going about this in such in unprepared manner. The technological issues about the subject have not begun to be resolved. It is so frustrating reading about it.

    ~Dave

    In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson expressed concern regarding white spaces proceedings and new television bandwidth devices.

    As recently as August 9, the FCC conducted a test of white spaces devices before and during a Buffalo Bills-Washington Redskins game in Washington D.C. The results showed that the prototypes did not accurately sense wireless microphone signals, a function that would be required to prevent interference.

    “Our members are alarmed by preliminary public reports about the FCC’s inconsistent sensing results,” Wilson said. “These inconsistent field tests present a very serious reliability issue that will impact our members and their ability to do business.”

    Early reports indicate mixed results in the field. Some suggest that low-power wireless devices may interfere with the DTV spectrum. Supporters of these prototype white-space devices – which include laptops and smart radios – are vying to share the unused, or “white spaces,” portion of the television spectrum. The FCC is conducting tests to ensure these devices don’t interfere with digital reception.

    Because NSCA members design, install and maintain sophisticated integrated A/V, security and communication systems for a wide variety of venues, wireless components play a critical role in system design and functionality.

    Wilson urged the FCC to conduct further field testing to ensure consistent and reliable results using a diverse array of usage environments
     
  8. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    It's been discussed in detail in just about every forum I follow. This is not really news, back before the 700MHz (698-806MHz) auctions the FCC had indicated that they planned to limit the use of those frequencies to the successful bidders and public safety, this is just now getting around to happening (with a little prodding from Verizon and some of the other successful bidders). I believe somebody noted there were around 300 licensed users in those bands but many of those are broadcasters who will no longer be using those bands after the digital changeover.

    Also to be clear, this in no way affects UHF wireless mics operating outside the 698-806MHz range and is far from "killing" wireless mics. That honor is being left to the "white space" groups. These groups, with such seemingly high minded names as "freetheairwaves", are fronts for Google and other special interest groups who did not pony up to buy dedicated bandwidth in the FCC auctions and now want the FCC to let them use any unused UHF bandwidth for free. They are out there ranting about all the bad wireless mic users who have been operating illegally by being unlicensed while at the same time proposing to help the public by using those same frequencies for their own unlicensed devices.
     
  9. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator Premium Member

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    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's take a step back here! It is true that the FCC is going to prohibit BAS device operation in the 700 MHz band, but the reality is that WE (non-broadcasters) have never been allowed to operate there anyway! Also, you can still operate BAS equipment (theoretically, with a license only, but in practice it doesn't matter) below 700 MHz (470-698 MHz), which is where most of us are anyway.

    Anyway, PLEASE, read my Wireless FAQ:
    Wireless FAQ

    PS - I merged this with the thread in the News section. No point in discussing the issue in two places at once. Also, the news section should be used for posting news articles and not posts meant for discussion. :)
     
  10. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    They are Part 74 devices .. they were originally licensed and marketed for short-range ENG use by broadcasters (see Part 74 Subpart H). In this regard they are broadcast auxiliary service devices.

    But again, only broadcasters can be licensed to use these link radios in the broadcast spectrum.

    There are two chief parts to the issue:

    (1) The FCC will (well, propose to, but most certainly will) ban the operation of radio transmitters other than those of the New Owners of the spectrum. If you regularly use a 700 Meg wireless set, it's entirrely possible that you might get a visit from a friendly Field Office representative. The implication of this is that we should cease operation in 700 megs on February 17, no matter what. Oh, by the way, they also propose to make illegal the purchase or sale of radio transmitters that operate there.

    (2) There's the larger issue of licesnsing, creating a new radio service, and possibly enforcement. The FCC has been very well aware (or should have been) of the Part 74 devices that are in service in every church, theatre, production company, and rock band, and have been operating illegally for at least 20 years. It's been unenforced, but with that brought to the forefront by the PISC petition, the FCC will most certainly have to make some sort of ruling on where we (who aren't broadcasters) can or cannot operate short-range production link radios.

    Anything in our inventory that operates in 700 megs will need to be replaced, no doubt about it. But what it should be replaced with we won't know until the R&O comes out probably around Christmas. Then we'll know if we have to all fit between 500 and 692 like the DTV guys (that'll be a [email protected]$! in the metro areas) or move up to the wide open spaces at 2.0 gigs. Or do something entirely different.

    Just my two cents. Fortunately the only thing I run that's directly affected is one IEM link radio set.


    sk
     
  11. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Noting that in Australia, radio mics are authorised as item 22A of schedule 1 of the Radiocommunications (0Low Interference Potential Devices) Class Licence 2000 up to 100mW power. Above that and you need an ACMA licence...

    Also noting that ACMA can imposed a controlled spectrum area as they wish, this has been done in the past for things like the Olympics, Comm Games and World Youth Day. It means that say us audio people can do the frequency allocations with intermod calculations and then anyone who hasn't advised ACMA of frequencies and had them OKed can be directed to cease transmission...
     
  12. Oldschool

    Oldschool Member

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    I am glad to see there has been some discussion regarding this post. I put an absurd title on it, hoping to get folks to read, research, and understand what this new rule could / will mean. Yes, this topic had been around for ever. Yes, the FCC has been saying all along that they intend to limit use of the 700MHz band – sort of. And yes, there is a large quantity of certain power mics that have been operating “illegally” all along – sort of. I was hoping not to get into the argument of how we got here, but how to move forward now that it is clear what is going to happen. The fact that the FCC is now saying ( in a very unambiguous way) that they will prohibit the use, sale or resale of most of the devices that operate in this band in six short months is a significant change and should be considered if you work a realm that requires their use.

    Maybe if there were a poll with the question, “What percentage of your wireless inventory operates in the 700MHz band?” and the result is over 50% (if I am correct) it would better make my point. Folks have been selling these devices like hotcakes for a long time now. Buyers purchase them thinking they have a long term investment in their inventory. Now they (the FCC) gets serious and you have two choices – use them illegally or replace them. Now I don’t think the FCC is going to hire a bunch of Storm Troopers to come to every Theatre and Ballroom to check freqs, but I do think there will be stepped up enforcement and a significant fine for use and especially for resale.

    As for replacement, the manufactures will simply stop making these units and put their efforts into other frequencies / propagation methods. That’s great, but how many units can they spit out in a given time period? Do you have the budget to replace all your 700MHz channels? I know of one national rental house that has over 3500 units that operate in this range. Even if you have the $$, who is going to get first dibs on the units coming from the manufacture - the national rental house or the ankle biter?

    That’s all I am saying by posting this information. I think things really have changed from wait and see to Oh #%^&%@! All along Shure and the NAB and other organizations have been lobbying Washington on this topic. I think that most readers of this forum have a vested interest in letting the FCC know how this will affect their business/school/church.

    As a reseller of these devices, we will not stop offering them until they are illegal – But, we will now place a note for all potential buyers to see that this device may now be illegal to use (in the USA) after mid-February of next year and let them make an informed decision. Besides, there is most of the globe left that will still use them.

    PS - sorry for posting in the News section - I put it there and then realized it would be better in Sound. Thank you for combining them into one post.
     
  13. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator Premium Member

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    You bring up a number of very good points here. However, most (if not all) of the gear sold over the last few years has been under 698 MHz - and now, I don't believe any manufacturers have current 700 MHz gear for sale in the US (they may have some for export). Even Lectro has made their 700 blocks special order and non-returnable.

    I'm curious what new gear you have in stock that is 700 MHz-only.

    But you're missing a very important point - they are illegal to use now! The FCC has stopped issuing Part 74 Subpart h licenses for the 700 MHz spectrum, so by definition 700 MHz mics are illegal to buy/use unless the buyer shows you their FCC license number (this really goes for all wireless mics, but let's face it, nobody follows those rules usually).

    I know this sucks for resellers stuck with 700 MHz gear (and for current owners who are probably looking to sell them), but it's just how it is. You might look at exporting these mics to other countries with 700 MHz spectrum still open.

    No problem. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2008
  14. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    I agree that this is a critical factor. The FCC has to look at things from the perspective of licensed users, in fact most of the issues coming up regarding wireles mics stem from the fact that the majority of wireless mic users really do not, and to some degree cannot, exist from the FCC's perspective. The FCC looks at the 700MHz band post the digital transition and see svery few licensed users affected by a ban and that is really all they can do.

    But it would likely be very misleading and irrelevant. What might be more relevant is what percentage operates only in the 698-806MHz band?
     
  15. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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  16. FMEng

    FMEng Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Aside from the legal and FCC enforcement issues, I would think that no one here would want to take even the slightest chance of interfering with public safety communications. If you operate equipment in the 700 MHz band, it'll need to be destroyed or modified for a new band, not shelved or sold. Putting it on ebay would be a very bad idea that could come back to haunt.

    If you continue to use it and interfere with public safety, and something bad happened as a result, the civil liability would make any FCC fines or equipment confiscation seem like pocket change. The lives of police and fire depend on their radios working everywhere.

    You can argue that wireless mic signals don't travel far or don't leave your building all you want, but it doesn't hold up. The public safety radios have to work inside your building at all times, not just outside. Besides, you probably don't want that fire truck passing by on the street to desense your receivers anyway.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2008
  17. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Just like anything else in life, it is what it is. As much as it may irritate, we all have to deal with it eventually. FMEng is right; you don't want to play games with the FCC or Public Safety groups. Everyone is best off if they pay for new, legal equipment, and abandon anything that broadcasts where it shouldn't. Unfortunately, for almost all wireless microphone users, there's not a way to be perfectly legal because most users have always fallen through the cracks of the FCC's policies. I hopefully await a clear and concise press release from the FCC as to what will happen to these mic users, and if there will be a way in which they can be legal and still functional even though they do not fit into the category which broadcasting does.

    At this point, the white space testing is failing with flying colors, so we may want to start focusing on new ways of getting our jobs done. The goal is the same, the rules are changing, and so must the method. Maybe we'll have to drop the widespread use of wireless microphones, and deal more with shotguns and such. Only time will tell.
     
  18. dannyn

    dannyn Member

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    That is going to be interesting. The guy I work for had about 40 Shure SLX series microphones and he dumped them all beacuse he was worried they would not work anymore.
     
  19. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator Premium Member

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    Really? Did he replace them, or just get out of the wireless market altogether?

    AFAIK, the SLX series operates below 698 MHz, so it's definitely not in immediate danger (though based on my experience with that line of mics, I don't know how well it would work with white space devices in the air...reception was shoddy at 100' without any interference)
     
  20. dannyn

    dannyn Member

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    He replaced them with another Shure line that he said is going to be safe from the FCC. He also said, that he could have kept those for things that weren't in big cities beacuse there would not be much interference, but he said in big cities he didn't want to chance it.
     

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