Posted on by Tycho Smith

FCC Wireless Microphone Frequency Changes and How That Affects You


It has been over a year since the FCC announced their intention to auction off airspace in the 600 MHz band to cellular internet providers and other companies.. This news effected many people, because the 600 MHz band had originally been available 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 UHF channels will actually 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.

Well, 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 already.

That is why we compiled a list of popular questions and answers below to help our customers understand and get ready for the transition.

Why do cellular internet providers want the 600 MHz band?

In short, it all has to do with how the wave lengths of different frequencies work. Shorter frequencies can literally penetrate – or pass through – certain material more easily. The frequencies of 600 MHz wireless transmission can penetrate through walls much more effectively than frequencies of 900 MHz. For internet / cellular providers like T-Mobile, this means your phone calls will not drop as much as before. Better service for cell phone users – but at what cost?

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

Shortly put, 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 all together as if 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 licensed for a Part 74 License (for $165) so that you may continue doing so after the transition.

How does this affect your wireless microphone purchase ?

By October 13, 2018, the FCC will prohibit 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 / 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 is still effective until March 31, 2019


Conclusion

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.

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