FCC Adopts Order To Clear the 700 MHz Frequency of Wireless Mics by June 12

Sports broadcasters, leagues, and networks that rely on microphones that operate in the 700 MHz spectrum will need to find new spectrum as of June 12. The Federal Communications Commission late Friday released an order that turns the spectrum over to communications services for public safety and the deployment of next-generation 4G wireless devices for consumers.

Wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, and other professional wireless devices will continue to be permitted in the remaining UHF TV band (470–698 MHz). Existing 700 MHz equipment should be replaced with systems operating in that range or in other parts of the spectrum. Additional details relating to the FCC’s order and its implications for wireless systems users can be found at www.fcc.gov.

To download the order, click here. The FCC says that unlicensed devices cannot continue to operate in the 700 MHz band because they may cause harmful interference to public-safety entities and next-generation consumer devices that will use the frequencies.

The commission announced it is also unveiling an aggressive consumer-outreach plan in order to assist consumers who have previously purchased wireless microphone systems and other related devices that use the 700 MHz band. Through the commission’s Website, www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones, consumers can learn whether their wireless device is currently operating in the prohibited band and whether their device may be retuned to operate on another band. Consumers may also call 1-800-CALL-FCC to ask questions regarding this transition.

Sports Video Group (SVG) Executive Director Paul Gallo says that most sports broadcasters, with the assistance of their wireless-microphone suppliers, have ceased using wireless microphones using the 700 MHz frequency.

“We have been working with FCC staff towards an orderly transition out of this frequency and believe that the June 12, 2010, date is fair, offering reasonable time to complete the transition,” he says. “We totally support the consumer-outreach program, identifying the different classes of wireless microphones, licensed and unlicensed, and the different requirements for each.”

SVG and its members, including the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and ESPN, have been working with the Coalition of Wireless Microphone Users (CWMU) in Washington to protect users of microphones on other frequencies. Other members of the CWMU include The Broadway League, The Shubert Organization, the JFK Center for the Performing Arts, and other off-Broadway and regional theater organizations.

Gallo acknowledges that many other issues remain open as to the proposed White Spaces database and the expansion of Part 74 licensing. “Our group will continue to work in a constructive manner with the FCC to ensure that the needs and interest of SVG members and the sports-production community are protected while the goals of the final DTV Transition are accomplished.”

One key component of the order, according to Thomas Ferrugia, director of government relations for The Broadway League, is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking expressing interest in expanding eligibility for Part 74 licenses (specifically referencing theaters and churches) and requesting comments/assistance with defining parameters for eligibility.

Wireless-microphone manufacturers are also looking to work with the industry. Shure is extending its popular wireless rebate program until June 30, offering up to $1,000 per system for customers who purchase a new Shure wireless system and send in their old 700 MHz system, regardless of who manufactured it.

“We’re pleased that the FCC has issued a firm transition date for 700 MHz wireless equipment,” says Mark Brunner, senior director of global brand management. “In anticipation of the post-DTV- transition UHF landscape, Shure has been moving its product lines away from the 700 MHz band for the better part of a decade, and, in recent years, we have increased our information outreach to the user community, including very attractive trade-in rebate programs. Complying with this firm date will still be challenging for some users, but we remain committed to making the transition as easy as possible for them under the circumstances. It’s time for one final push to prevent interference with the new users of the spectrum.”