FCC Wireless Microphone Frequency Changes

August 03, 2018 3 min read

FCC Wireless Microphone Frequency Changes

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its intention to auction off airspace in the 600 MHz band to cellular internet providers and other companies back in 2017. The news raised questions from the public, particularly media professionals, because the move will make 600 MHz unavailable for consumer wireless microphone usage.

This FCC auction impacts the 600 MHz band, specifically 614-698 MHz. For wireless microphone consumers, this means that many ultra high frequency (UHF) channels will be illegal to use in the near future. While the timing of the deployment was set to be July 13, 2020, the fine print also states that the space will be immediately unavailable when the auction winner starts using it.

2019 Update: Auction Results and Winning Bidders

After the bidding closed on March 30, 2017, the incentive auction yielded $19.8 billion in revenue, which includes $10.05 billion for winning broadcast bidders and over $7 billion for deficit reduction. You may visit the FCC’s Incentive Auction Dashboard to get updates on the process, as well as information about the winning bidders.

Some of the new owners have already started changing the airwaves—one of the auction participants, T-Mobile, has huge plans to make use of it right away.

With less than a year left of the transition period, we compiled a list of popular questions and answers below to help you understand and get ready for the changes.

Why do cellular internet providers want the 600 MHz band?

The reason is related to how the wavelengths of different frequencies work. Shorter frequencies can penetrate (or pass through) certain materials more easily. The frequencies of 600 MHz wireless transmission can penetrate through walls more effectively than frequencies of 900 MHz. For internet and cellular service providers like T-Mobile, this means that phone calls by their users will no longer drop as often as before. Better service for cellphone users, but at what cost?

What will happen if I continue using my 600 MHz UHF wireless microphone?

One effect is that you’ll get interference. Once an internet provider starts broadcasting on the 600 MHz band, you‘ll probably be subject to interference, as their more powerful signals overpower your own broadcast. It may even make your signal drop out altogether, as if it forces you off the air. And that’s the best-case scenario. Because the 600 MHz band has been privately purchased, and is no longer available for public use, it will actually be illegal to use it. And if you get caught (as unlikely as that may be), you can be fined, receive a warning, or even be criminally charged.

What are the exceptions?

The 600 MHz band is made up of the following four parts:

  • Guard Band (614-617 MHz)
  • Downlink Band (617-652 MHz)
  • Duplex Gap (652-663 MHz)
  • Uplink Band (663-698 MHz)

By July 13, 2020, wireless microphones operating in the Downlink Band and Uplink Band will be required to cease operation.

While spectrum will be available for wireless microphone use on the Guard Band and Duplex Gap, there are limitations and license restrictions placed on them. After considering these restrictions, the availability drops to:

  • Unavailable spectrum: 616 – 617 MHz and 652-653 MHz
  • 8 MHz available for unlicensed microphones: 614-616 MHz and 657-663 MHz
  • Available for licensed microphones only: 653-657 MHz

Most of the wireless microphone users fall under the unlicensed category. If you routinely use a large number of wireless microphones (more than 50), you may want to consider getting a Part 74 License so that you may continue doing so after the transition. Licensing requirements and other useful information about Part 74 is available on the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations’ website.

How does this affect your wireless microphone purchase?

As of October 13, 2018, the FCC now prohibits the manufacture, import, sale, lease, offer for sale/lease, and shipment of wireless microphones that operate on the 600 MHz band for use in the US market.

Many brands have offered a rebate or recall program:

- The Saramonic UWMIC10 wireless systems that were sold on the Movo website have been discontinued and replaced with the new UWMIC9 that operates in the 500 MHz band. Contact Saramonic for more information regarding a trade-in.

  • Sennheiser’s trade-in program for the 600 MHz band ended on December 31, 2017
  • Shure’s rebate program for the 600 MHz band ended on April 30, 2018
  • Audio-Technica’s trade-in program ended on March 31, 2019

Conclusion

If you often rent wireless microphones, keep in mind to check the frequency channels, so you do not run into radio frequency issues or potential fines.

If you own any 600 MHz wireless microphones, it is important to check with the brand ASAP for a trade-in device, or purchase a different wireless mic that is not affected by the 600 MHz band. Visit our wireless microphone collection page to find FCC-compliant audio devices.


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