March 31, 2010

FCC Proceedings Impact Use of Wireless Microphones

Holland & Knight Alert
Bill LeBeau

Ongoing proceedings at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may require private groups to take prompt action in order to protect their use of wireless microphones. Wireless microphones subject to these changes may include unlicensed “off-the-shelf” personal, clip, or handheld microphones to more elaborate licensed systems. If your organization owns or uses microphones, these changes may affect how your organization conducts its day-to-day business.

Microphones Use in 700 MHz Band

On January 15, 2010, the FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that requires all low auxiliary stations – including wireless microphones – to cease operation in the 700 MHz band (i.e., TV Channels 52-69 or 698 MHz - 806 MHz) no later than June 12, 2010. The FCC also has adopted an early clearing mechanism permitting public safety or commercial licensees commencing operations in the 700 MHz band before June 12 to require wireless microphone users to cease co-channel operations upon 60 days prior notice. The FCC says it has taken this action to “... ensure that public safety and commercial licensees can operate in the 700 MHz band without interference, while providing entities currently operating wireless microphones in the band with an opportunity to relocate to other bands.” The order also authorizes the use of wireless microphones, on an unlicensed basis, by entities not currently eligible to obtain licenses.

Action Items

If your organization owns or uses wireless microphones, it is important to determine which frequencies the microphones use. For more information, please visit: If your group’s microphones operate within the 700 MHz band, and you intend to continue using wireless microphones after June 12, 2010, you may need further assistance. For example, some wireless microphones that operate in the 700 MHz band can be successfully re-tuned to operate in frequencies other than 700 MHz. Others that cannot be re-turned may need to be replaced. Wireless microphones that operate only outside the 700 MHz band should not require additional action at this time.

Additional Resources

For more information, please visit: Also, this table – – may be useful in determining whether your organization’s wireless microphones operate within the 700 MHz band and will need to be replaced or re-tuned. You can contact your wireless microphone’s manufacturer to answer any technical questions. Links to many manufacturers can be found on the latter website as well.

Microphone Use in TV Bands

This past winter, the FCC continued to move forward on a recent effort to authorize unlicensed devices to operate within the TV bands, including Channels 14-51 (i.e., 470 MHz - 698 MHz). (Unlicensed devices may include certified Wi-Fi or similar short- or medium-range wireless devices that may be mobile and that do not require obtaining location-specific FCC permission prior to use.) The FCC has recognized that these unlicensed devices may cause interference to wireless microphones operating in the TV bands. In order to try to limit interference to these existing uses of the TV bands, the FCC has opened a proceeding to establish a database that will include locations, including churches, schools and public arenas, where wireless microphones may be commonly used. Locations registered in this database will be afforded some protection from unlicensed devices, although, as a legal and technical matter, the precise extent of such protection remains in flux.

Action Items

The next step in what has been nicknamed the “white-spaces database proceeding” is for the FCC to sort through the various proposals as to which organization will administer the database. At that time, it is expected that the FCC will issue additional guidance as to how to parties can gain protection in the white-spaces database.

Additional Resources

For general information about this proceeding, please see the FCC website.

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