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Shure Offers More Info on “White Spaces”

In continuing its work to educate our industry on the upcoming sale of certain wireless frequencies, Shure announced today that while the UHF television band may become more crowded, it is not going away by any means.

“Reports of the death of the UHF TV band have been greatly exaggerated,” says Shure’s Mark Brunner, senior director, public and industry relations. “The UHF TV band has been, and will continue to be, the largest and best spectrum for wireless microphone users.”

The FCC is in the middle of a multifaceted reorganization of the UHF television band, stimulated by the future transition from analog to digital television broadcasting. The DTV stations will occupy a smaller section of the UHF spectrum (470 to 698 MHz) than is currently allocated for television broadcasting. The remaining spectrum (698 to 806 MHz) has been divided up into blocks. Some blocks have been or will be auctioned to companies that will use them to provide new nationwide wireless services, while others have been reserved for public-safety communications.

Even with packing the digital TV stations into a smaller piece of spectrum, there will still be unoccupied channels in every market. These “white spaces” are used by wireless microphones, in-ear monitors and production intercoms. The FCC is considering the use of the white spaces to deliver wireless broadband Internet service to consumer wireless devices.

“The white spaces are not being auctioned,” Brunner says. “The auctions cover the spectrum from 698 to 806 MHz, often referred to as ‘the 700MHz band.’ The white spaces will not be sold to Google, Microsoft or anyone else,” he says.

And what happens on “the morning after” the DTV transition? “Wireless microphones will not stop working on February 18, 2009,” says Edgar Reihl, Shure’s technology director, advanced development. “Any consumer device that the FCC allows to operate in the white spaces must include circuitry and software that allows it to detect and avoid both TV broadcasts and wireless microphone signals.” According to Shure, the FCC is currently testing this avoidance technology, and it is unlikely to authorize new devices unless they can adhere to these rigid rules and their performance is verified under real-world conditions.

“The 902 to 928MHz and 2.4GHz ranges have been represented as some sort of ‘spectrum lifeboats,’ but those ‘boats’ have holes in them,” states Reihl. “The core UHF TV bands have much more usable spectrum available than the 902MHz and 2.4GHz bands, even after taking into account any new unlicensed devices that may exist in the years after 2009. More usable spectrum translates into more wireless microphone channels available to the user. Additionally, providing interference-free, high-quality audio is even more challenging in these bands, where wireless microphones compete with other signals such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.”

Shure has been actively engaged with the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology and with legislators in Congress since 2003. The company has provided samples of its wireless products for use in FCC testing, submitted plans for field testing of interference effects, and has arranged meetings between FCC officials and representatives from broadcast networks, sports leagues and other major wireless microphone user groups. “No one can definitively say how this will turn out,” Brunner says. “The FCC has to iron out a lot of details before it makes any decisions related to new use of the white Spaces.”

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