FCC Now Looking at 4 MHz for Wireless Mics

This article originally appeared in Broadcasting & Cable.

According to a source familiar with the item, the FCC is proposing to set aside some spectrum exclusively for wireless microphone use after all, but whether it will be enough remains to be seen.

The FCC had signaled wireless mics would not get any reserved spectrum in the new post-incentive auction 600 MHz band plan, but wireless mic users, including broadcast news folk, complained loudly.

According to the source, the amended incentive auction band plan would create a standard 11 MHz duplex gap — between wireless uplink and downlink spectrum — and set aside 6 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed use, 4 MHz for wireless mics, and 1 MHz of guard band.

A source confirmed that was the proposal, citing FCC staff.

NAB had said it might be able to squeeze mics into 4 MHz, but with 3 MHz guard bands, rather than the 1 MHz.

National Association of Broadcasters spectrum point man Rick Kaplan said that the proposal was a step in the right direction because it recognized the need for some reserved spectrum for mics, but because of the way the proposal portions out the spectrum, it would create too much opportunity for interference to be workable. Because of that interference, broadcasters would not wind up with the usable 4 MHz that they need.

“From a technical standpoint, it’s not really viable,” he said, for wireless companies or unlicensed users of wireless mics.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the incentive auction framework May 15.


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6 MHz of prime spectrum just for wireless mics seems to be a bit wasteful. First of all, meeting modern sound quality demands probably implies that the radio link should be digital. If off-the-shelf Bluetooth is not acceptable for some reason, then a dedicated band with a modern CDMA spread spectrum waveform would allow dozens of mics to share a smaller slice of spectrum, with the advantage of Coding Gain, and perhaps with no need for empty guard bands. When you think about how many digital TV signals can be jammed into 6 MHz, it seems a bit primitive to be needing that much spectrum for wireless mics.
By J. Harvey on 5/15/2014

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