The wireless spectrum reallocation — which is underway through a process called the ‘incentive auction’ — will have a direct impact on thousands of wireless microphone users across the country. As a leading global manufacturer of microphones and wireless systems, Sennheiser is committed to supporting its customer base through its support channels and relentless product innovation — including the recently announced A1 range, a new frequency variant for its popular evolution wireless ew 100 G3 and ew 300 IEM G3 series.
For the benefit of Sennheiser customers and the broader audio community at large, following is a brief Q&A that describes the key spectrum issues facing wireless microphone users, and how Sennheiser is helping them navigate and overcome these issues.
What is happening?
To accommodate the increasing demand for mobile broadband services in North America, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Industry of Canada (IC) have agreed on a future reallocation of spectrum in the UHF band in order to accommodate demands for mobile broadband. The 600 MHz range, which is currently used for TV broadcast and wireless microphones, and possibly the upper range of the 500 MHz band, will be repurposed based on the results of a spectrum auction. For wireless microphone users, this means that many of the UHF TV channels used today may no longer be available for microphone usage in the future.
When is this going to occur and what frequency range will be impacted?
The final band plan will not be known for several weeks or months, and the actual repurposing will occur over a period of several years. The FCC has established its initial clearing target for the auction, which will potentially repurpose UHF spectrum above 566 MHz and up to 698 MHz. Pending the outcome, customers should start planning for the changes now and be prepared to complete any transitions before 2020.
Where does the FCC stand on the issue?
The FCC recognizes the importance and ubiquitous nature of wireless microphones in our society and plans to accommodate their use, largely through access to alternate frequency bands. It is also making a clearer distinction between licensed and unlicensed microphone operation: Licensed operation provides access to additional frequency bands, while granting rights and privileges over any unlicensed device. License eligibility has been expanded beyond broadcasters and content creators to also include sound companies and venues that routinely use 50 mics or more.
As a wireless microphone user, what can I do to prepare?
Sennheiser customers can confidently purchase new UHF systems that offer frequencies below 566 MHz, such as its evolution wireless A range. Meantime, Sennheiser has already launched a new A1 frequency variant for its popular ew 100 G3 wireless microphone series and the ew 300 IEM G3 wireless monitoring series (all systems and single components). These will be available starting in July and operate between the 470 MHz and 516 MHz frequencies.
What is Sennheiser doing to help guide users through this transition?
Sennheiser is taking immediate steps to respond to the needs of its customers — through comprehensive support and relentless product innovation. First, by launching its new A1 variant for ew 100 G3 wireless microphone series and ew 300 IEM G3 wireless monitoring devices, Sennheiser is providing future-ready solutions for customers looking to continue using its popular analog wireless solutions. The company meantime remains at the forefront of digital wireless innovation, having recently launched products such as D1, AVX, SpeechLine Digital Wireless and Digital 9000 wireless systems. These innovations — which cater to a vast user base of both amateur and professional wireless microphone operators — are not impacted by the pending spectrum reallocation since they either utilize the higher spectrums of 1.9 and 2.4 GHz (SpeechLine Digital Wireless, AVX and D1 respectively), or offer devices that work efficiently at the lower end of the UHF spectrum (Digital 9000).
For current owners of wireless microphone equipment that may be impacted by the pending spectrum reallocation, Sennheiser’s “Gear Up and Cash In” program provides customers with the ability to trade in old wireless systems for up to $200 towards the purchase of select new Sennheiser wireless systems from an authorized dealer. For more details on the promotion, please visit sennheiser.com/promotions.
Where does Sennheiser stand on the issue and where can I learn more?
As a leading audio manufacturer for more than 70 years, Sennheiser stands with the audio community and will continue to provide updates both on its website and through direct communications to its customers. To access Sennheiser’s knowledge base, please visit en-us.sennheiser.com/spectrum, which hosts a range of resources as well as the latest information on spectrum reallocation activities. Meantime, the audio community can be assured that Sennheiser is helping ensure that wireless microphone users are able to successfully transition out of the impacted frequency range.