In June 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) simultaneously released two documents important to wireless mic operators:
The Incentive Auction - Report & Order
Wireless Microphone - Second Report & Order
The government has initiated a process that may reallocate a still-unknown amount of TV band spectrum, specifically in the 600 MHz range, in order to accommodate demands for mobile broadband. For wireless mic operators this means that many UHF TV channels used today will not be available to mics after the TV band repacking process, scheduled to be completed in about four years.
Summary of the relevant points:
1) License eligibility is expanded to include sound companies & venues that routinely use 50 or more wireless mics. This will allow many more professional operators the ability to directly reserve spectrum for their productions, providing safeguards from unlicensed devices.
2) The FCC revised their rules for co-channel operation. This will allow mics to operate in some locations that are not available under the current rules: anywhere at least 4 km from the predicted service contour of a station on the same channel – or even closer, after coordinating with the station.
3) Wireless mics will be allowed to operate in the guard bands and duplex gap (sometimes called the mid-band gap) of the 600 MHz band. Duplex gap operation may be limited to broadcasters and cable programming networks, as for coverage of breaking news.
4) There will no longer be two channels exclusively reserved for wireless mics. However, one white space channel (a channel not used for TV broadcast) will exist in every area of the U.S., available for shared use by mics and TV white space devices. Licensed mic operators will have priority and will be able to reserve this and any other white space channel they require during their productions. Also, promised improvements in the TV bands database may in the future enable more effective registration on shorter notice of wireless microphone operators seeking interference protection from TV White Space device operations.
5) Wireless mics will be allowed to operate as they do today during the repacking process. This is a benefit that was not granted when 700 MHz was reallocated. Parts of that range still lay fallow in some areas of the country.
6) The FCC has continued in force the present waiver that allows unlicensed microphones to operate at 50 milliwatts or less.
7) The FCC has stated its commitment "...to accommodate the longer-term needs of wireless microphone users through use of additional frequency bands to meet their varying needs." We will continue to work with the FCC on this point and hope to provide more details later in this year.