Hundreds of wireless microphones in 700 MHz band to go obsolete

Literally hundreds of different wireless public address systems that utilize the 700 MHz UHF band for microphones, intercoms, and in-ear monitors must now be replaced or reconfigured, and it's because of the great DTV shift that took place last year.

In 2008, the FCC auctioned off the 700 MHz frequency band that formerly belonged to UHF channels 52-69, and a large chunk of the band went to AT&T, Verizon, Cox, and King Street Wireless, a holding company associated with US Cellular. Now that the DTV transition is complete and next-gen wireless services are being built around the spectrum that was freed, the FCC has prohibited the sale and distribution of 700 MHz consumer devices.

The FCC is providing a sunset period for these devices which will last until June 12, 2010, or one year from the DTV transition. Thought to be most affected by this transition are P.A. rental companies, music venues, and churches.

It is unlikely that any policing will go on, and the devices will continue to be usable, but experts say that interference will be serious in markets where big players are utilizing the spectrum. A Shure spokesman told Pro Sound News last year that devices with a wireless range of 100 feet could be cut down to only 10 feet with all of the interference.

"In order to ensure that existing microphone users are aware of the June 12 deadline and their role in the transition, the Commission will also implement a major consumer outreach program, including a consumer-friendly Commission Web page on wireless microphones," FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski said in a statement today. "The Commission is also requiring -- for the first time -- that manufacturers and retailers of wireless microphones provide clear notice to consumers about the basic terms and conditions under which they may use wireless microphones and how they may find out more information. Finally, the Commission is seeking comment on the long-term status of wireless microphones and other low-power auxiliary stations."

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