FCC Looks to Block Wireless Mic Use in 700MHz Band After DTV Transition

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Washington - Aug 25, 2008 - The FCC tentatively plans to ban the use of wireless microphones and other devices in the 700MHz band after the transition to digital television Feb. 17, 2009. The FCC also wants to prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or shipment of devices that operate as low-power auxiliary stations in the 700MHz band after the transition is complete. Anticipating the decision, wireless microphone vendors like Shure have not manufactured such mics since the end of 2007.

Wireless microphones have long been sharing the spectrum with broadcasters on channels 52 through 69. Those channels, however, are being reclaimed for advanced wireless uses.

Responding to consumer groups, the FCC Enforcement Bureau has opened an investigation into how manufacturers market wireless microphones to users. The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, in a complaint filed in July 2008, alleges that users of wireless microphones, including Broadway stage shows and churches, are unwittingly violating FCC rules that require licenses for the devices. The group accused wireless manufacturers of deceptive advertising in how they market and sell the microphones, which largely operate in the same spectrum as broadcast TV stations.

Most wireless microphone owners are unaware that FCC rules require them to obtain a license. Wireless microphones that operate in the same frequency bands as broadcast TV stations are intended for use in the production of TV or cable programming or the motion picture industry, according to FCC rules.

The FCC rarely enforces the licensing requirements on the microphones because there have been so few complaints; the microphones are programmed to avoid TV channels. However, the transition to digital broadcasting has forced the FCC to act.

The wireless microphone issue stems from the FCC's consideration of using the TV white spaces, the spectrum between TV channels, for transmitting wireless broadband signals.

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