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Mandolin Picker

Check Your Wireless Mics - 600 MHz Being Phased Out

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While a lot of us use wired mics for our recordings, a number of us use wireless mics for live performances. On August 11, the FCC announced it is clearing the 600 MHz spectrum and putting it up for auction. Users of wireless mics that are in the 600 MHz band will no longer be allowed to use that equipment. There is a decent write up over at Church Production Magazine (http://www.churchproduction.com/story/main/fcc-clears-the-way-for-wireless-mics). You can read the FCC Order at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0811/FCC-15-100A1.pdf (warning - this is a PDF document that is 84 pages long. Starting at Page 77, Item 33, it talks about 'Consumer Outreach' with respect to the 600 MHz spectrum and wireless mics). We have about 39 months to complete the changeover.

 

I know for our church this will have a big impact. We went through the same thing about 5-6 years ago when they auctioned off the 700/800 MHz spectrum, and we had to buy all new mics. Here we are just a few years latter and we are going to have to do the same thing again - replace perfectly good equipment because some corporations with a lot of money wants that spectrum.

 

Figured you would want to know so, like us, you too can begin making plans and financial decisions about replacing your equipment.

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If it were my church I would tell the FCC to go Fcck themselves (In Jesus name… of course… naturally) and I would start a pirate church TV station using old UHF bands just to be difficult. Of course I’d have to arm my congregation to protect church property from the government. Some people wouldn’t want to go that far, but that’s just me.

Edited by Beck

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No fine, and the FCC doesn't have police. You'll find out if and when you start hearing cell phone conversations in your PA system when you have the wireless receiver turned on. It's not likely that you'll be the cause of interference, but you might be a receipient.

 

I have a 178 MHz wireless mic that I'm still able to use where I've wanted to use it. But I remember one year at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, probably around 1978 or so before things were too high tech when one group requested a wireless mic. They rented one without knowing anything about it and it was in the 50 MHz band. This festival is located in downtown Washington DC, and when they started hearing taxi drivers they figured out pretty quickly that they needed to get on a different band.

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We went through the same thing about 5-6 years ago when they auctioned off the 700/800 MHz spectrum, and we had to buy all new mics. Here we are just a few years latter and we are going to have to do the same thing again - replace perfectly good equipment because some corporations with a lot of money wants that spectrum.

 

 

This is the part that ticks me off. Make a plan and stick to it. People shouldn't have to ditch gear after a couple of years because the FCC can't get a plan together. If I was the wireless mic manufacturers, I'd be all over the FCC's posterior about how their actions (and lack of intelligent planning) are harming business. People don't want to keep having to get rid of functional gear just to buy new stuff because the FCC messed with things again.

 

It definitely puts me off on the idea of buying any wireless equipment. The good news is that I can get by without it. The problem is that live sound / touring companies / churches / et al really can't - and the government knows that. People will have to adapt and get new gear, and at the end of the day, that's not all that bad for manufacturers... even though it probably does keep some people from buying products in this category.

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This is the part that ticks me off. Make a plan and stick to it. People shouldn't have to ditch gear after a couple of years because the FCC can't get a plan together.

 

You really don't HAVE to. Like Mike Rivers said, it's really only an issue if you find your old gear isn't useful due to interference. In the fine print of the FCC ruling it says:

 

(wireless microphone users may continue to access the repurposed 600 MHz band

during the post-auction period provided that they do not cause harmful interference to any 600 MHz band licensee’s

operations).

 

Legally, I don't think they could just suddenly make it illegal to use your already-purchased devices. They can only change the rules going forward and give you plenty of warning that your device might become unusable in the future.

 

As far the FCC's lack of intelligent planning? Well, that's probably part of the problem but, at the same time, who was really able to forsee the explosion of wireless communication we've seen over the last 10-15 years?

 

 

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One of the worst cases of trouble I would get is someone who could hear CB radio on their phone line. I was told it was probably someone running illegally overpowered equipment. The reason it was such a hard nut to crack was that never did they broadcast when I was at the customer's house. We had a couple of stock things we did, but follow up reports of the same trouble made me think that we were barking up the wrong tree. The FCC threw up their hands about illegal CB, I suppose because it was really hard to catch, then prove.

 

I remember when cordless phones changed frequencies we got a lot fewer cases of trouble because of a neighbor's conversations coming on their line.

 

One of the CB interference reports that I got involved a customer who lived in a condo on a hill that was a few blocks from a big truck stop. The CB interference was coming from what came to be known as a "lot lizard", who was trolling for customers.

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As far the FCC's lack of intelligent planning? Well, that's probably part of the problem but, at the same time, who was really able to forsee the explosion of wireless communication we've seen over the last 10-15 years?

 

 

Pretty much anyone involved in Telcomm... :idk:

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There are some moving parts at work here. First, take a look at the National Broadband Plan which specifies that 120MHz of the existing 220MHz is to be reallocated by 2021. So while a big chunk of the 600MHz band is on the block now there will be even more cuts shortly afterwards.

 

 

 

The second part is that whatever is left will have even more OTA TV channels in it than it does now as well as competition from other non licensed transmitters (TVBD's)

 

 

 

Unfortunately no no one as of now can tell you exactly what will be left and where.

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Pretty much anyone involved in Telcomm... :idk:

 

 

OK. So....presuming they should have seen it coming better (or maybe they did...) how should they have handled it differently? They've got a bunch of frequencies they reserved back in the 50s for UHF TV channels that didn't get used as much as they thought might and that also get used for short-range wireless mics. Seems pretty obvious these would be the frequencies they'd eventually sell off.

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My question is why can't manufacturers make equipment capable of being switched to multiple bands just to prevent this issue?

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If I was the wireless mic manufacturers, I'd be all over the FCC's posterior about how their actions (and lack of intelligent planning) are harming business. People don't want to keep having to get rid of functional gear just to buy new stuff because the FCC messed with things again.

 

The wireless mic manufacturers are indeed all over the FCC whenever they lose a portion of their spectrum. They and their lobbyists tell them about all the Broadway and Las Vegas shows that will go dark for lack of wireless mics. But it doesn't work. Those productions have enough money that any mic system is expendable. And the small churches don't have the money to pay lobbyists.

 

Last time around the major wireless manufacturers were offering trade-in deals that softened the blow somewhat, but they can't continue to do that every couple of years. Unfortunately, the wireless companies have more money than anyone in show business, and the FCC knows that they'll get a chunk of that money if they have some spectrum space to auction off to them.

 

 

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As far the FCC's lack of intelligent planning? Well, that's probably part of the problem but, at the same time, who was really able to forsee the explosion of wireless communication we've seen over the last 10-15 years?

 

Forget Sennheiser, Sony, Shure, Audio-Technica, and Lectrosoncics. Just plug your SM57 into your cell phone and phone in your part. ;)

 

 

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My question is why can't manufacturers make equipment capable of being switched to multiple bands just to prevent this issue?

 

The major manufacturers make "frequency agile" systems that allow them to cover any channel within a band, but there are a lot of design defferences when moving from 170 MHz, to 600 Mhz, to 900 MHz (I think that one is gone now) to 2.4 GHz. It's not just a matter of plugging in a different crystal.

 

I suppose they could make a multiband receiver if the market would pay for it, but transmitters, for practical reasons of size, probably need to be designed for a specific band.

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My question is why can't manufacturers make equipment capable of being switched to multiple bands just to prevent this issue?

 

Probably a question better answered by those more technically minded than myself, but I went to see what all my wireless equipment is running at and the only stuff I have running in the 600 Mhz range are the AT M2 In Ears but they are also switchable to the 800 band range (already gone) and the 575-608 Mhz range, which I presume will still be OK for awhile?

 

So they did make those KINDA switchable. My guess is that if they start making stuff that switches to bands quite far apart from each other---like something that, say, operates both in the 500 Mhz and 2.4 Ghz ranges --- that now you've really got two complete different devices. But I'm just guessing. Better left to the tech guys, like I said.

 

I just bought an AT 2.4 Ghz digital wireless mic to use for wedding speeches and the like and I really like it. Although reading through the FCC ruling that was linked in the first post, I see where a couple of companies (Sennheiser and Shure, I think) complained that those frequencies aren't suitable for high-end use due to interference issues. I haven't had any interference issues with it yet.

Edited by Vito Corleone

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Forget Sennheiser, Sony, Shure, Audio-Technica, and Lectrosoncics. Just plug your SM57 into your cell phone and phone in your part. ;)

 

 

We already rehearse via Skype. Why not just gig that way too? ;)

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and the FCC knows that they'll get a chunk of that money if they have some spectrum space to auction off to them.

 

 

I don't know how much money the FCC thinks they will get themselves, but auctioning off these spectrums is worth tens of billions (if not more in the long run) to the federal government.

 

 

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Mobile carriers are typically paying 20x for the bandwidth than OTA TV broadcasters do. And in the upcoming 600MHz auction they are promising to share some of the new revenue with any TV stations willing to give up or move from their existing spots in the 600's. And that money may be more than the station nets now! OTA TV will soon be a thing of the past I predict.

 

 

 

But it they have already been paying the general public (taxpayers) for the last couple of years. You are basically getting $500 a year off your income taxes (assuming you make $40-50k) from the projected income from the auction.

Edited by dboomer

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Mobile carriers are typically paying 20x for the bandwidth than OTA TV broadcasters do. And in the upcoming 600MHz auction they are promising to share some of the new revenue with any TV stations willing to give up or move from their existing spots in the 600's.

 

TV stations are (sometimes) large and important users of wireless mics, but they're not the only users. There are videographers who aren't TV stations, radio stations and producers, wedding bands, small and large churches, large touring music shows, and probably the biggest user, Broadway and Las Vegas shows. I suppose those users are considered small enough so that they don't have a large investment (although those users may think it's large) so they don't have a lot to lose, or so big that it's just a drop in the bucket to replace 100 channels of wireless systems, many of which are attached to microphones so new mics must also be auditioed.

 

 

You are basically getting $500 a year off your income taxes (assuming you make $40-50k) from the projected income from the auction.

 

I'll take that, but show me the money.

 

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Mike ... You missed my point. I was saying that mobile carriers are willing (and already do) pay up to 20x the fees for licensed bandwidth than over the air television stations do to broadcast their programming per megapop. Television station fees for wireless mic use is almost zero as there are only 1000 licenses currently issued (at a cost of about $180 per license.

 

 

 

As as far as money in your pocket ... Remember back when the government shut down at the end of 2011. The Bush era tax cuts AND the withholding holiday were both to expire. Some last minute midnight maneuvering saved the withholding exemption. So the government accepted the shortfall that resulted from the loss of that income by adding a provision to then Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that allowed the FCC to sell off the 600Mhz band and use some of the projected income to replace the shortfall. Had they not done that everyone's paycheck would have taken a hit.

 

 

 

https://www.fcc.gov/document/implementing-provisions-tax-relief-and-job-creation-act-2012

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Forget Sennheiser, Sony, Shure, Audio-Technica, and Lectrosoncics. Just plug your SM57 into your cell phone and phone in your part. ;)

 

 

If my audiences' comments are to be believed, I've been phoning in my performances for years.

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