It may be time to retire those trusty old wireless microphone systems that you’re currently using in your classrooms and auditoriums. The 600 MHz spectrum (technically 614 – 698 MHz) is about to get considerably more congested with wireless interference in the coming months and years. The Backstory: Way back in the olden days of 2012, Congress authorized the FCC to auction off some of the “old analog TV” wireless spectrum that was killed off in 2009. The 600 MHz band, where many wireless mic systems on campus operate, was auctioned off in March 2017 and is to be used for mobile devices (phones) starting later this year.
So, what does this mean for me? Well, it’s time to decommission those wireless mics using the 600 MHz band (or at least start budgeting for new wireless mics in the short term). The hard deadline to stop using mics on the 600MHz spectrum is 2020. WAIT… keep reading! I know what you’re thinking, “So, plenty of time to ignore this…” The “gotcha” is, these new mobile phones will start showing up this fall, and the carriers are already testing devices on the 600MHz spectrum. So, you may start noticing that your trusty old wireless mic isn’t so trusty anymore, and that could happen overnight. An infrequent audio dropout may not be a major concern for minor sound reenforcement in small settings, but for larger events, it can be a true show stopper (I know this from personal experience).
How do I know if my system is impacted?
All wireless microphone systems are required to list their frequency rang on the device. This is usually in the form of a sticker on the back of receiver. That said, some devices have multiple frequency ranges available, so you’ll need to check with the manufacturer.
Is there any good news?
Yes, the good news is that most of the major manufacturers of wireless devices have a rebate program to help with the cost of the upgrades. The rebates are anywhere from $75-$450, depending upon the number of channels, age of the device, etc. (links below). As always, leave a question below if you have comments or questions.