700 MHz & TV Band Spectrum Update

Spectrum allocation in the US has been in a state of change for quite some time. There are two important wireless microphone issues about which the FCC has recently communicated: 1.The use of wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band must stop, and 2. The FCC seeks comments on their proposals regarding the use of wireless microphones in TV channels 2-51.


FEBRUARY 1, 2010

Spectrum allocation in the US has been in a state of change for quite some time. There are two important wireless microphone issues about which the FCC has recently communicated: 1. The use of wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band must stop, and 2. The FCC seeks comments on their proposals regarding the use of wireless microphones in TV channels 2-51. Click here for instructions on how to file your comments to the FCC, and here for a letter template.

700 MHz band
The FCC’s Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking of January 15, 2010 prohibits the further distribution and sale of devices that operate in the 700 MHz band and sets a deadline of June 12, 2010 for all wireless microphone users to vacate this band. The purpose is to clear the 700 MHz band, enabling the rollout of communications services for public safety and the deployment of next generation 4G wireless devices for consumers. The 700 MHz band was sold off to the private sector several years ago for this purpose and the FCC is taking the final step to clear the airwaves for these companies. Current users of wireless microphones in this range (including those who currently have licenses) must cease operation by June 12, 2010.

The FCC also notes that in some market areas, EARLY CLEARING (vacating the band prior to June 12, 2010) may be necessary. Between now and June 12, 2010, this early clearing process could take one of three forms:

1. A 700 MHz commercial or public safety licensee may notify the FCC that it will be initiating operations, including system testing or trials, on specified frequencies in particular market(s). Upon such notification, the FCC will issue a public notice that will be available on the FCC’s website www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/ that identifies the affected market area(s).
2. Any 700 MHz commercial or public safety licensee may, at its option, notify any entity operating wireless microphones or low power auxiliary stations of its intention to initiate operations on specified frequencies in the market in which the wireless microphone or low power auxiliary station user is operating.
3. Commercial or public safety licensees that have already initiated operations in the 700 MHz Band may, effective January 15, 2010, follow the same notifications procedures, triggering the same 60-day cessation obligation for users of wireless microphones or low power auxiliary stations.

In any of these three situations, users of wireless microphones and low power auxiliary stations in those areas must cease operation within 60 days of the release of the notice. In the event that more than one of these notice provisions are used to provide notice to a particular user of a low power auxiliary station(s), the user will be required to cease operations in the market(s) in accordance with whichever notice provides for earlier termination of such operations.

The FCC is providing a consumer outreach program to assist end users who have previously purchased wireless microphone systems and other related devices that used the 700 MHz band. Their website, www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/, will show if a wireless device is currently operating in the prohibited band. End users may also call 1-888-CALL-FCC to ask questions regarding this transition.

In order to comply with the FCC’s proposed spectrum direction, Audio-Technica stopped development of products in this frequency band over 8 years ago. Since then we have systematically developed and offered new models outside the 700 MHz range with more features and benefits than their predecessors.

In response to the FCC’s January 15, 2010 order, we have re-activated our 700 MHz rebate program to help any remaining customers in this change. Details can be found on our website at www.audio-technica.com. The program allows users to send in their old Audio-Technica 700 MHz product and receive a form good for a 15% rebate on the purchase of ANY Audio-Technica product – wired or wireless. We will also take competitors’ 700 MHz units in exchange for a 5% rebate under the same terms and conditions.

Wireless devices used in the TV band
On November 4, 2008, the FCC issued the “TV White Spaces Second Report and Order.” With this document, the FCC adopted rules to allow unlicensed radio transmitters to operate in the TV “white spaces” (broadcast television spectrum at locations where the spectrum is not being used by licensed services) provided the unlicensed devices (called TVBDs or TV band devices) comply with certain technical requirements. In this report, the FCC also offered a number of protections to licensed wireless microphone users operating under Part 74 Subpart H authorization.

These licensed wireless microphone users were protected under Part 74 of the FCC regulations as TV band secondary users (second to TV stations) with limited protections. However, some wireless microphones have been operating without this Part 74 license and as a result of this NPRM and subsequent 2008 “TV White Spaces Second Report and Order,” the FCC received numerous comments regarding the use of wireless microphones by currently unauthorized users.

The FCC acknowledges the need for wireless microphones in communications within places of worship, theater, government facilities, live performance and many other venues, but must consider this need in relationship to the broader issue of crowded spectrum management. They are proposing to address this need in 2 ways: by broadening the scope of Part 74 Subpart H license eligibility beyond broadcasters and by allowing unlicensed use of wireless microphones (now referred to as Wireless Audio Devices) under revised Part 15 rules along with TVBDs in the “White Spaces.”

In the recent January 15, 2010 “Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the FCC concluded that it serves the public interest to waive two Part 15 rules to permit unauthorized users of low power auxiliary stations (this includes wireless microphones) to operate on an unlicensed basis under Part 15 rules both in the 700 MHz band until June 12, 2010 and in the core TV bands until the effective date of the Commission action taken in response to the Further Notice. The FCC makes a footnote regarding this action which reads “We anticipate that such unlicensed operations in the core TV bands pursuant to waiver will remain in place only for a short period of time, as we intend to act expeditiously on our proposal to promulgate final rules.”

In essence this change is temporary amnesty for unlicensed users while the FCC follows their comment and reply process in order to gather additional input prior to making final rules. The FCC is seeking comment on many topics that affect wireless microphone and TVBD use. Comments will close March 1, 2010 and responses will close March 22, 2010. The FCC is asking for public comment on these changes, so we encourage you to write to them. Click here for instructions on how to file your comments to the FCC, and here for a letter template.

It is important to note that currently licensed Part 74 or Part 90 wireless microphone users will not experience any changes in operating frequencies or conditions, other than the 700 MHz ban as described above.

Audio-Technica’s response
Audio-Technica has and will continue to look for and manufacture technologically advanced wireless products to satisfy the demands of your environment. It is the reason why we developed SpectraPulse, the world’s only ultra-wideband conference system, and the reason why you will see more new, high-performance wireless products in the future.

As always, our Audio Solutions department is available to assist you in getting the most out of your wireless equipment.