600 MHz Frequencies No Longer Available for Audio Transmission in US and Canada

July 13th, 2020
600 MHz Frequencies No Longer Available for Audio Transmission in US and Canada

The FCC started relocating (“repacking”) TV stations to other frequencies back in November of 2018. The move would include almost 1000 stations in the USA and Canada that had to change their frequencies.  As a part of  this auction, the 600 MHz frequencies have been sold to the Telecommunication for 5G Mobile Use. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the completion date was rescheduled (Phase 10) to 13th of July 2020 – today. For those in Canada there will also be a Phase 11 to follow. 

FCC Wireless Transition Schedule, Source:FCC

600 MHz Gone from 13th of July in US and Canada

According to the FCC Wireless Microphone Rules:

“Wireless microphones that operate in the 600 MHz service band (the 617-652 MHz and 663-698 MHz frequencies) will be required to cease operation by no later than 13th of July 2020, and may be required to cease operation sooner if they could cause interference to new wireless licensees that commence operations on their licensed spectrum in the 600 MHz service band. “

Not to be alarming, but just informative, fines for illegal transmitters can be $16k per day, per channel. Not only that, the 600 MHz Band has been sold to 5G telecommunication companies. So you will not be able to get a clean audio signal anymore. 

NYC venue before TV re-pack – Source: RF Venue

 

NYC venue after TV re-pack – Source: RF Vanue

Is 470-512 MHz up for Auction Next?

The FCC also proposed updates to TV white space (TVWS) rules in the name of better broadband for rural areas of the country.  A couple of new FCC Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) push the 2021 auction of the T-Band (470-512 MHz) back on track, which means this band will be sold for another purpose.  If this does happen, it’s very likely that wireless mics will not be permitted to use 470-512 MHz frequencies probably in 2023.  The full FCC document can be found here.

Any Solutions?

There are many ways to avoid this problem.

  1. Use 1.9 GHz or 2.4 GHz Wireless.
    Wireless Microphones such as Wireless GO from RØDE Microphones, or the AVX System from Sennheiser are using 2.4GHz and 1.9GHz frequency range. These frequencies are licence free, and totally legal for civil usage.
  2. VHF and UHF frequencies on TV channels 2-36, which fall below 608 MHz are still available.
    Frequencies like 500MHz range are very crowded in some regions. Make sure to do an RF scan and pick up some clean frequencies when using wireless audio systems. With help from RF Vanue RF Explorer, it’s easy and quick to do RF Scan and manage your frequencies, both on UHF and 2.4GHz.
  3. Always have back-up audio sources.
    As RF frequencies are more and more crowded, a good Shotgun Microphone become essential to your audio kit. The RØDE NTG5 Shotgun Microphone from RØDE Microphones is a very good choice in a budget (we will publish our review of the NTG5 very soon). It uses RF Condenser Technology, which insure the Microphone will not have interference with radio signals. With water and dust resistance and lightweight short design, it can be used anywhere, on any cameras or boom poles.

Conclusion

During the last few years, more and more radio frequencies have become unavailable for wireless transmission both in the US/Canada and in Europe. As the radio frequencies are getting less, and more crowded, It’s better to inform yourself and look up to some alternative solutions.

What’s your experience with Wireless Microphones and IEM Systems? Have you ever had any problems with radio frequencies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Felipe Ruiz-Mendoza
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July 16th, 2020

Hey Tong, so… does this mean that Sennheiser G4 lavalieres will most likely become useless in 2-3 years?

Dave R.
Dave R.
Guest
July 15th, 2020

It’s amazing how the government can sell something the government says no one owns.

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