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FCC Intends to Ban Wireless Mics From 700 MHz Band

Coalition that criticized manufacturers is pleased; hopes FCC will create a General Wireless Microphone Service.

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a ban on wireless microphones and other low-power auxiliary stations from operating in the 700 MHz band after the end of the digital television transition come February.

The point is to eliminate harmful interference to new public safety and commercial wireless services in the band.

Also under the proposal, manufacturing, importing, selling or shipping of devices that operate as low-power auxiliary stations in the 700 MHz Band would be prohibited after Feb. 17, 2009.

Low-power auxiliary stations are authorized for such uses as wireless mics, cue and control communications and synchronization of TV camera signals. Radio broadcasters are among those allowed to use the stations.

Of 943 active low-power auxiliary station licenses, the FCC said, 156 are authorized to operate in the 700 MHz band. Most of those are authorized to operate in other spectrum bands as well. Thirty can only operate in 614–806 MHz, which is part of the 700 MHz Band.

After the end of the DTV transition, low-power auxiliary stations would be able to continue operating in additional spectrum bands on a secondary basis, including certain broadcast television channels below 700 MHz.

The commission said it will freeze filing of new applications for low-power auxiliary station licenses that want to operate on any 700 MHz band frequencies after Feb. 17. That freeze extends to related equipment requests as well.

In its draft Notice of Proposed Rule Making, the agency seeks comment on requests made by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition regarding the use of wireless mics. The group has alleged that some makers of wireless mics, including Shure, have violated the rules by marketing and selling equipment to the public that is limited to certain classes of users; selling equipment for purposes that violate the rules; and deceiving the public as to the requirement for a license. The coalition also has called for creation of a new General Wireless Microphone Service to help solve the problem.

The group said it was pleased the FCC took its complaint seriously and is looking into marketing practices of manufacturers of wireless mics; the FCC Enforcement Bureau has initiated such an investigation.

“As we told the commission in July, ‘In violation of FCC rules, manufacturers persuaded unauthorized users to buy expensive wireless microphones that manufacturers had no right to sell and the public has no right to use. As a result, somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million unauthorized wireless microphone systems operate on UHF Channels 52–69 — creating pools of potential interference that could undermine the reliability of these new public safety and commercial wireless systems.’”

PISC members include the CUWiN Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, EDU¬CAUSE, Free Press, the International Association of Community Wireless Networks, Media Access Project, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the New America Foundation, the Open Source Wireless Coalition, Public Knowledge and U.S. PIRG.

“Shure intends to work closely with the FCC during this rulemaking process,” company spokesman Chris Lyons told RW in an e-mail. “We have been anticipating a change in the status of the 700 MHz band for some time. We stopped manufacturing and selling wireless microphone products in the 700 MHz range in 2007, and we have been advising users to begin migrating from the 700 MHz band to the core TV band below 698 MHz.”