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News: Further frequency changes ahead for Wireless Microphones

Hot on the toes of the US digital TV switchover, OFCOM today (2nd Feb 2009) have announced a consultation paper, which seeks to make further changes to the UHF bands currently used in the UK for Television Broadcasting and Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE).

As part of the Digital TV switchover, UHF channel 69 was supposed to be left as is in order for wireless microphones and other licensed activity to continue unabated. However, as a number of European countries now look to re-use the analogue TV channels for other purposes, OFCOM are paving the way to follow suit.

The proposals are to move PMSE from channel 69 (854 – 862 MHz) down to channel 38 (606 – 614 MHz). Also on the move will be channels 61 & 62, which have only recently become Digital TV, meaning householders will have to retune their sets or in the worst case buy new equipment if they can’t tune down low enough!

Although the paper suggests funding could be made available for the PMSE switch, it is hard to see how this could be implemented in practice due to the diversity and incoherence of organisations that currently use this spectrum. Many license holders are individual churches, schools, community sports halls and other small charitable organisations which use wireless for their microphones and PA systems, etc. Their equipment tends to be older than professional users and would not therefore benefit from a government scheme which will only replace recently purchased equipment. The paper also suggests that there should be no funding for anyone who has bought equipment after its release. This is the worst possible news for equipment manufacturers as prospective buyers will now be tempted to put-off purchases until there is more certainty over the frequencies they can use long term.

Any equipment that is modified or re-designed to work on the new frequencies as well as new equipment will need to be assessed for compliance with the R&TTE Directive. This covers Safety, EMC and Radio parameters. The paper cites one possible benefit for upcoming designs as both the US and EU will share frequencies below 698 MHz. This is not strictly true though as the band 608 – 614 MHz (yes that’s part of channel 38) is not available in the US and any equipment designed for both markets will need to have this range disabled in the US and furthermore be tested for band edge compliance when it is authorised.

For further details and your say on the proposals go to http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/800mhz/

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