600 MHz-band wireless microphones are now noncompliant due to frequency changes. Could you be affected?
What has changed?
If you have a wireless microphone, or use one on campus, you may need to purchase a new one. Recent changes in ownership of certain frequencies now means that some wireless microphones will no longer be able to communicate over their regular frequencies.
Specifically, on Nov. 1, 2017, after the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned off the majority of the 600MHz bandwidth to T-Mobile, that bandwidth is no longer available for public TV or radio use.
Spending nearly $8 billion for ownership of this frequency to boost the provider’s LTE cellular network nationwide, T-Mobile now controls a significant portion of the “low-band” spectrum allowing them to offer more robust signal strength through buildings and over long distances.
So what does this mean?
TV and radio channels that previously occupied the 600 MHz band are being rapidly “repacked,” or moved to different frequencies, to clear out the spectrum for its new owner. Those broadcasters are being moved to the 500MHz band and the remaining spectrum will be shuffled across available frequencies to accommodate the surge of commercial broadcasters in the shared airspace. This massive reduction in available spectrum means much more limited airspace for noncommercial users, such as those using wireless microphones to communicate during large events. T-Mobile and the FCC have already begun rolling out changes in many areas across the country although full spectrum reallocation is not expected to be completed until 2020. Ultimately, this means that frequencies that work today might not work in 2020 as the available spectrum continues to be rearranged.
Also important to note is that according to a recent FCC regulation set in effect after T-Mobile’s purchase, the use of devices transmitting across the 600MHz band is now highly discouraged in order to remain compliant with FCC laws. These laws restrict use of the 600MHz band to T-Mobile, meaning others sharing the band could face legal consequences.
What should you do if you have a wireless microphone?
Fortunately, there are several ways to accommodate wireless microphone use despite these changes to the spectrum. First, be sure that the microphone you’re using is compatible with the 500MHz band, which can be a substitute for the now limited 600MHz band. If you’re unsure if your mics are compatible, you’re encouraged to contact Elon’s media specialists, Dallas Smith (x6552) or Rick Earl (x5644) for more information and for purchasing recommendations if you need a compatible version.
Those needing multiple wireless mics for events on campus, such as marching band performances, acapella concerts, and sporting events, are also encouraged to register their mics ahead of time with Dallas Smith and Rick Earl by contacting the Technology Service Desk (336) 278-5200. Using a license Elon has purchased from the FCC, events on campus requiring multiple mics can register their mics ahead of time giving them priority within the spectrum.
“Our hope is that people on campus will reach out before their event,” says Rick Earl, technical director and media expert. “We’re happy to answer any questions anyone has about these changes to ensure all events and projects run smoothly.”
Earl also shares that the best way to prevent any issues is to communicate ahead of time when several wireless mics will be used at the same time and to use wired devices whenever possible.
Before you use a wireless microphone on campus
- Contact the Technology Service Desk (x5200) if you have questions about the compatibility of your wireless microphones.
- Double check that your microphones are compatible with the new band updates before purchasing.
- Only use wireless microphones (versus wired) when absolutely necessary.
Brodkin, J. “T-Mobile dominates spectrum auction, will boost LTE network across US.” ArsTechnica. April 13, 2017. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/04/t-mobile-dominates-spectrum-auction-will-boost-lte-network-across-us/
Harvey, S. “T-Mobile Speeds Up Pro Audio 600 MHZ Eviction.” Pro Sound Network. October 24, 2017. https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/business/t-mobile-speeds-up-pro-audio-600-mhz-eviction
Harvey, S. “The Spectrum Crunch Cometh.” TV Technology. October 16, 2017. http://www.tvtechnology.com/events/0025/the-spectrum-crunch-cometh/282069
“Wireless microphones.” FCC. July 14, 2017. https://www.fcc.gov/general/wireless-microphones-0, “T-Mobile Ready to Rock New Spectrum With First 600 MHz LTE Smartphone & 5G-Ready Network Gear.” T-Mobile Newsroom. August 31, 2017. https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news-and-blogs/tmobile-600mhz.htm