The FCC finally dropped the other proverbial shoe during the 2010 Winter NAMM show when it issued an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking prohibiting sales of wireless microphone and monitoring systems that operate in the 700 MHz frequency band, and kicking existing ones out by June 12 of this year.
This final step in the DTV transition clears the way for the 4G consumer and emergency wireless services that roll out this year.
Verizon, which paid $9.3 billion for their share, tested Boston and Seattle last year, with plans to roll out service in 24 to 30 cities later this year and full national service in 2011. Qualcomm’s Media Flo service has been interfering on channel 55 for more than a year.
The FCC’s consumer outreach plan includes a website listing all affected wireless systems (www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones) and whether they can be re-tuned for legal operation.
A quick inspection of the site’s equipment list shows that, except for Lectrosonics, most wireless 700 MHz equipment cannot be re-tuned and will soon be worthless. Its only value will be when used to take advantage of a trade-in or rebate, which some manufacturers have reinstated following this latest FCC announcement.
Reading through the 103-page Report and Order, which takes some time, it’s clear that the FCC doesn’t attach the same urgency to the operation of wireless systems that we do in live sound.
The FCC also has restricted power levels of unlicensed (Part 15) wireless mics to 50 milliwatts (mW), unless they’re licensed under Part 74, in which case they’re willing to make exceptions on a case by case basis.
Furthermore, unlicensed operation,which is the bulk of us in live sound, must accept interference from other licensed and unlicensed devices. These and other warnings will be required to be displayed prominently on packaging and websites selling wireless systems.