First, some history. Professional wireless microphone and intercom systems have been operating in the United States for well over half a century, and now they’ve been joined by wireless in-ear monitoring systems.
At the current time, 95 percent of these systems operate in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum from 470-698 MHz. This is because the wavelengths associated with radio frequencies in this band are well suited for portable wireless devices such as microphone transmitters and intercom packs due to the small size of their antennas.
In recent years, information technology giants like Google, Dell, Verizon, Sprint and others have acquired a significant interest in these radio bands, which have officially been home to the professional audio and broadcast communities since 1962.
Since the first smartphones were introduced to the consumer market, the requirement for radio bandwidth has tripled, and it grows exponentially as a steady stream of new portable consumer devices are designed and released by these entities.
The result has been overcrowding of the radio spectrum that, until recently, was reserved for the professional audio and broadcasting communities. In fact, pro audio/broadcast has already lost more than one-third of the UHF spectrum that was formerly available.
This year, white space consumer devices are hitting the retail market, resulting in further spectral crunching, and next year, another 100 MHz of radio spectrum above 600 MHz will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Meeting The Challenges
If this relentless onslaught of consumer digital radio devices continues to grow unchecked, the days of operating wireless microphone, IEM and intercom systems will swiftly come to an end.
That’s why a small group of wireless audio specialists, including yours truly, formed Radio Active Designs (RAD). Our objective is to design and manufacture spectrally efficient wireless audio products so that all live events, performing arts, and broadcast media may continue to flourish with minimal negative impact from consumer devices.
All five of the owners of RAD have worked for decades in the audio industry as wireless microphone and intercom operators, manufacturers, and event radio frequency (RF) coordinators. We’ve had the opportunity to see—first-hand and in real-time—what’s happening with the radio spectrum.
The Radio Active Designs UV-1G wireless intercom system. (click to enlarge)
We’ve also been involved in FCC discussions regarding the future of these consumer devices and how much radio spectrum the pro audio wireless community will be left with after these devices are introduced to the world.
After studying the amount and type of wireless usage in the U.S., we determined that more than half of the frequencies in use on a typical event are taken up by wireless communications devices. If you add up every wireless microphone, IEM and IFB system at a large event, that number is still less than the number of wireless intercom systems used on that same event.
Therefore, to make the greatest impact in relief from this spectral congestion, we chose our first product to be a wireless intercom system, the new RAD UV-1G.