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FCC Okays New Rules for Wireless Mic Users

Guidelines will allow wireless microphones to operate on additional spectrum bands to varying degrees

The FCC last week adopted new rules to address the long-term needs of wireless microphone users.

The rules are designed to ensure those users have continued access to the 600 MHz band, and provide for expanded access into additional bands.

The decision, which has been in the pipeline for some time, should be good news to users in the radio industry. “This ruling is very welcome relief, giving us more options, and is long overdue,” said Radio World Technical Advisor Tom McGinley, who is also director of engineering for several CBS Radio stations. “When DTV was authorized, the FCC took away legal use of many of the UHF TV channels previously used for most wireless mic apps and didn’t replace those lost resources with adequate options.

“This ruling essentially makes up for that oversight,” he said.

According to the commission, there will be an increased need for more frequencies for wireless microphone users following the repurposing of television spectrum for wireless mobile services, after which there may be fewer frequencies in the bands available for use by wireless mics.

The goal was two-fold: ensure that unlicensed wireless microphone users are sharing the bands efficiently and ensure that the rights of licensed users of each of the bands are being protected.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly was the lone commissioner to dissent in part. He said that while he generally supports the changes to the technical rules, he has reservations about migrating wireless microphones into certain bands.

“I think it would be unwise for wireless mics to migrate into spectrum bands that could be reallocated for commercial wireless use in the future,” he said, pointing to proposed operations in the 1.4 GHz band, which is being considered by the wireless industry and the international community for future licensed wireless services.

The newly approved rules allow for licensed wireless microphones to operate on a secondary basis in three additional spectrum bands to varying degrees: more spectrum in the 900 MHz band, a portion of the 1435–1525 MHz band at specified times and places, and portion of the 6875–7125 MHz band.

The decision was supported by Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai.