Wireless Update 2010: June 12 DTV Transition Anniversary Is 700 MHz Deadline

“There will be two classes of wireless system operators going forward.”

By PSW Staff January 30, 2010

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.

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Henry Cohen says

“Frequencies below TV channel 21 are off limits to mobile TVBDs, except in the 13 largest cities where they’re used for mobile radio services, which makes Audio-Technica’s new I band (TV 16-20) another good selection.” 
This statement is not quite accurate. Personal/portable TVBDs may not operate below channel 21 under any circumstances. Fixed TVBDs may operate in UHF-TV channels 14-21 *except* in those 13 major economic areas (the FCC doesn’t confine the geography to city limits) where Part 90 LMR services operate by waiver.

Mark Frink says

Yes, Henry, once again, you’re right. Instead of 13 major cities, it should read major economic areas. Can you name them? My point was that in those 13 cities, TV channels 14-20, devoid of any TVBDs in the future, might be a good place for future non-touring equipment. You seem good at trivia. How many of those six TV channels in those cities are unused by broadcast and mobile radio? Thank you, Henry.

Dave Horn says

Any word from Mr. Cohen or others on the identities of those “13 major economic areas” or cities?

Mark Frink says

The 13 cities, er “major economic markets”: hmm, let’s see if i can do it from memory. They’re all big and Henry will help us if I get one wrong. OK: Boston, New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, Philly and DC. Phew. In those cities, er MEAs, the first unoccupied TV channel on either side of TV 37 will exclude TVBDs (in theory).

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