Redskins Pre-Season Broadcast Likely Site of Crucial White Space Test

By Dan Daley
The Buffalo Bills-Washington Redskins preseason game on Aug. 9 at FedEx Field will likely be the first test of how wireless microphones and digital television (DTV) signals fare together in a major-league venue and broadcast environment, SVG has learned.
The field test of “white space” devices would be one of several in August and September run jointly by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and pro audio industry groups and manufacturers. These run in the wake of thus-far inconclusive lab-environment testing. The goal of the testing process is to determine how the reassignment of analog television bandwith when national broadcasting switches to all-digital in February 2009 will impact wireless microphones and their users, including sports broadcasters.
The OET has received invitations from several high-profile live sports and entertainment entities, including the NFL and ESPN, offering events and venues in which to conduct the field tests, as well as invitations to conduct tests at the Republican and Democratic national conventions by BroadComm, which coordinates the wireless microphone frequencies for those and other events. The Schubert Organization has also offered a Broadway theater as a test site. The joint NFL/ESPN filing on June 26 stated, “We believe it is essential that field testing studies reflect actual, true-to-life conditions, including testing of wireless microphones and other wireless audio equipment used at these games.”
Mark Brunner, senior director of public and industry affairs at wireless microphone maker Shure, says an NFL event is an ideal environment in which to test how wireless audio navigates the white space. “The strength of DTV signals is higher in a outdoor environment, which makes football a good venue,” he says. “The distance from the transmitter to the receiver is generally further than you’d find in an indoor environment, including and indoor sports arena. Also the NFL probably has the highest concentration of wireless frequencies in any wireless environment.”
OET officials and other interested parties reportedly did a walk-through of FedEx Field on July 31. The preseason game will be broadcast in both analog and DTV. Two types of wireless microphone systems will be used, an analog system from Shure and a digital system from Lectrosonics.