By Steve Harvey
Washington, D.C. (August 26, 2008)--The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a ban on wireless mics operating in the 700 MHz band and has called for comments on a petition requesting the investigation of deceptive marketing and violations of FCC rules by certain wireless microphone manufacturers.
Wireless microphone manufacturers have for some time warned that proposed consumer devices designed to operate in the so-called "white space" frequencies between channel allocations might interfere with RF audio production equipment. U.S. broadcasters will vacate UHF channels 52 through 69 (698-806 MHz) on February 17, 2009 when TV operation switches from analog to digital, and those frequencies will be reallocated to winners of the government's recent $19 billion airwave auction and to public safety systems.
The FCC proposes prohibiting low power auxiliary stations, including wireless microphones, to operate in the 700 MHz band after the end of the DTV transition. It further proposes the prohibition of "the manufacture, import, sale, or shipment of devices that operate as low power auxiliary stations" operating in the 700 MHz band prior to the transition date. "These actions would ensure that low power auxiliary operations do not cause harmful interference to new public safety and commercial wireless services in the band," states the notice.
The order also imposes a freeze on the filing of new applications for licenses or on the granting of equipment authorization requests for low power auxiliary station devices operating within 700 MHz band.
In July, the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC), a consortium of public interest groups, petitioned the FCC to address the unauthorized use of wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band. PISC's petition stated, "somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million unauthorized wireless microphone systems operate on UHF Channels 52-69--creating pools of potential interference that could undermine the reliability of these new public safety and commercial wireless systems."
The coalition requests that the FCC investigate "Shure, Inc., Nady Systems, Inc., VocoPro, Audio2000, Sennheiser Electronic Corporation, Audix Microphones, Electro-Voice, Hisonic International, Inc., Pyle Audio, et al...for willfully and knowingly marketing and selling wireless microphones to unauthorized users for ineligible purposes in violation of Part 74, Subpart H, and for engaging in deceptive advertising practices designed to persuade ineligible users such as houses of worship, theaters, corporate event venues, and members of the general public" that they could "legally purchase and operate wireless microphones operating on vacant broadcast UHF Channels without a license and for purposes prohibited by the Commission."
According to FCC records, there are currently 943 active low power auxiliary station licenses, of which 156 include the authority to operate in the 614-806 MHz band (Channels 38-69). Most may operate beyond that band while 30 are restricted to only that band.
A number of wireless mic manufacturers have already ended the sale of equipment in the 700 MHz band. Some manufacturers, such as Lectrosonics and Shure, also address white space issues in detail on their web sites.
Federal Communications Commission