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FCC: No Wireless Mikes in 700-MHz Band

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to prohibit the use of wireless microphones and other devices in the 700-megahertz band after the transition to digital.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposed the ban earlier this month.

The FCC also wants to prohibit the manufacture, sale, import or shipment of such devices that operate in the 700-MHz band.

The devices have been sharing the spectrum with broadcasters on those channels (52-69), but those channels are being reclaimed for advanced wireless uses by industry and first-responders after the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to DTV.

The FCC said the move affects 156 licenses, but only 30 are not also authorized to operate in other bands that will still be available after the transition, including some DTV-spectrum band.

Effective on release of the order, there will be a freeze on applications for any "low-power auxiliary station," which is the category that includes the wireless mikes, as well as equipment that synchronizes TV-camera signals.

The commission also sought comment on a proposal to authorize current unauthorized users in the 700 mHz band--many wireless mike users are not licensed, in violation of FCC rules--by alowing them to operator on channels below 52-69. It will also look into complaints about the marketing of those microphones.

Harold Feld of Media Access Project, which pushed the proposal and marketing investigation, said MAP was pleased the FCC had made a quick and definitive decision. "It shows that they are taking us seriously," he told B&C. "We certainly hope that this will be resolved before the DTV transition on Feb. 17, and hope the FCC adopts our road map on how to move forward, which protects members of the public, allows for opening the spectrum for all productive wireless devices and punishes only those who illegally marketed the devices in the first place."

David Donovan of the Association for Maximum Service Television has pointed out that the move will reduce the spectrum available for wireless mikes used by news reporters and newsrooms and would "appear to make it more difficult to place unlicensed devices on channels 21-51 since the demand for wireless-mike spectrum will increase on those channels."

The FCC is currently testing those unlicensed devices as it decides how and whether to allow them to share DTV spectrum.

Mark Brunner, Shure’s senior director, public and industry relations, for major mike manufacturer, responded.

“Shure plans to work closely with the FCC during this rulemaking process," he said in an e-mail to B&C. "In anticipation of changes in the 700 MHz band, Shure ceased manufacture, marketing and sale of all wireless microphone products in this frequency range, the last of which was discontinued in 2007," he said.