FCC: Wireless Mics Can Use White Space

Published May 31, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to keep available the “white spaces” portion of TV spectrum used by wireless microphones and similar devices. Two existing television channel frequencies in each market also were made available for use by the devices as part of a long-term plan to respond to demand for the valuable television spectrum.

Planners of stadium events and conferences may register 30 days in advance through an online database to reserve more spectrum slots.

Mark Brunner, senior director of global public relations for Shure, Inc., puts the white spaces issue in the context of the transition to digital television (DTV). “The change to DTV basically allowed the FCC to shrink the total footprint of broadcast television, and therefore to free up some spectrum.”

Brunner added: “Professional wireless microphones have always operated in the TV spectrum and have utilized the spaces in between TV stations.”

Product Alterations Needed
There was a lot riding on the FCC’s September decision over whether to keep wireless audio in the UHF band, Brunner says. “The history of the industry was in UHF, and so all of the technology has been perfected around UHF chip sets and radio components.”

An impact of the DTV conversion was that musicians, theater groups, and churches had to purchase new equipment by June of this year. Brunner says there is no need for any new equipment purchases after the September change, but manufacturers will have to alter their products to accommodate new frequencies.

Joe Ciaudelli, director of market development and education at audio equipment manufacturer Sennheiser, Inc., agrees.

“Audio engineers will have to make themselves aware of the two channels reserved for wireless mics in the city where they plan to operate, rather than just know which TV channels are vacant in that city,” he said.  “For many this will be a minor change in their routine.”

‘No Additional Action Needed’
Neither Brunner nor Ciaudelli sees a need for Congress to take additional action on the issue.  Brunner says the FCC’s approach appears to have been a fair and balanced attempt to ensure the best use of available spectrum among many parties competing for it, based primarily on pragmatic engineering factors and the needs of the public.

Ciaudelli says he is encouraged by the report’s assertion

“Changes to the TV broadcast spectrum need to be carefully considered to weigh the impact on consumers, the public interest, and the various services that share this spectrum, including . . . wireless microphones,” he said.

Noting live events and audio production are a vital U.S. export, Ciaudelli concluded, “If this issue is approached objectively, studies will reveal undermining content production would have a significantly adverse economic consequence for our nation. I believe our leaders will be very careful before creating additional obstacles that would impede one of our most valuable exports.”    

Loren Heal ([email protected]) writes from Neoga, Illinois.

Internet Info:

“FCC Wavelength Reassignment Presents Huge Financial Challenges,” Infotech & Telecom News, August 2010:  http://heartland.org/infotech-news.org/article/27984/FCC_Wavelength_Reassignment_Presents_Huge_Financial_Challenges_.html.