Last month, the Federal Communications Commission revised its rules for wireless microphones to address the availability of spectrum after the incentive auction and to make revisions to the applicable technical standards. The new rules build on the changes made in 2015 that set forth opportunities for licensed and unlicensed wireless microphone usage in a variety of spectral bands.
In 2015, the commission adopted rules to permit licensed wireless microphone usage in the very-high frequency television channels and reduced the co-channel spacing protection requirements. The commission also authorized entities eligible for low-power auxiliary station licenses to obtain licenses to operate in the 600 MHz Duplex Gap, which separates the uplink and downlink portions of the wireless systems authorized to operate after the incentive auction. Finally, the commission established licensing and technical standards for wireless microphones operating in five other spectral bands.
At the same time, the commission adopted rules to permit wireless microphones to use spectrum on an unlicensed basis in the 600 MHz guard band, which separates television and wireless operations, and in the 600 Duplex Gap. It also established the technical standards for unlicensed wireless microphones under the commission’s Part 15 regime, and required unlicensed wireless microphones to coordinate spectrum usage with white spaces databases, so that the wireless microphones would not receive interference from unlicensed white space devices.
With the incentive auction completed, the 600 MHz band is now restructured with broadcast television service is now limited to Channels 2-36 and wireless operations authorized to operate between 617 MHz and 696 MHz. The 600 MHz Guard Band is 614 MHz to 617 MHz, and the 600 Duplex Gap is 652 MHz to 663 MHz.
The new order responded to concerns expressed by wireless mic manufacturers that the spurious emission limits adopted in 2015 were impractical. Instead, it was recommended that the commission adopt the spurious emission limits established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. The commission agreed and revised its rules to require compliance with Section 8.4 of the ETSI standard for wireless microphones (EN 300 422-1).
In addition, the commission agreed to permit wireless microphone manufacturers to show compliance with the commission’s output power limits either by radiated or conducted power measurements for both licensed and unlicensed operations. At the same time, the commission rejected calls for the increase of the operating power for wireless microphones in the 600 MHz Duplex Gap and 600 MHz Guard Band.
Also, the commission affirmed its earlier decision to limit the operation of legacy unlicensed wireless microphones that do not comply with the Part 15 technical standards after the end of the incentive auction transition period. Instead, the commission will permit manufacturers to modify devices in the field to limit their operation to Duplex Gap and Guard Band frequencies. If the devices can be modified, then the manufacturers can modify their existing equipment authorization to specify operations, pursuant to the applicable Part 15 technical standards. If the unlicensed wireless microphones cannot be modified to come into compliance, then the use of these devices must cease when the incentive auction transition has been completed.
Finally, the FCC rejected requests to increase the amount of spectrum available for wireless microphone use in the 1435-1525 MHz band at the same time at a particular location. Requests had been made to permit usage throughout the whole 90 MHz band at a particular location for large-scale events. The commission disagreed, noting that the 1435 MHz band was intended to be used by operators only when other spectral bands are not available. However, the FCC did clarify that each user would be permitted to use up to 30 MHz within the band, rather than requiring that all users be limited to 30 MHz at that location. The commission staid this should provide the operators with expanded flexibility.
The commission is seeking additional comments on a proposal to permit a limited class of unlicensed Part 74 authorizations for professional theater, music, performing arts organizations based on a demonstrated need and requisite professional ability. The deadline for comments, and the effective date for the revised rules, will be established upon publication in the Federal Register.
Petro is of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Email: [email protected].
Oct. 1 — Stations with five or more full-time employees in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Saipan and Virgin Islands place annual EEO public file report in public inspection file.
Oct. 1 — Stations with 11 or more full-time employees in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington file broadcast mid-term report (FCC Form 397) with FCC and place in public inspection file.