In 2010, based on a directive from Congress, the FCC developed the National Broadband Plan. The plan is to reallocate a significant portion of the UHF spectrum from TV broadcasters (including many wireless microphone products) to mobile broadband providers (cellular communication) within 10 years. The FCC believes that the TV broadcasters, who currently use the UHF frequencies, are not as important as the cellular communication providers. Therefore, the FCC is attempting to remove TV broadcasters from some UHF bands and reassign those bands to mobile broadband users for expanded cellular communication.
In February, 2012, President Obama signed a law which gives the FCC special authority to conduct a one-time “Incentive Auction” to reassign some of the broadcast television spectrum. The TV broadcasters currently have the license to use the broadcast band (470MHz to 698MHz), and the FCC does not have the right to take that away from them; therefore, the FCC is creating a program called “Incentive Auctions” to attempt to motivate the broadcasters to sell their spectrum rights and move to a different frequency – or cease operations entirely. The FCC originally wanted to conduct the auction in 2014, but on December 6, 2013, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the 600 MHz band incentive auction originally scheduled for 2014 will be delayed until 2015.
This is a complex and time consuming process to reorganize the spectrum, and it is not known which frequencies will ultimately be reallocated or how long that process will take. Once an auction takes place for a specific band, it could take up to two years to repack the remaining broadcast stations into alternate frequency bands. Therefore, the earliest time frame in which a band would become unavailable would be in 2017 or 2018.
The industry is expecting some FCC announcements to come out in the next three to six months regarding their plans for the 600 MHz frequency bands, and we will provide updates as soon as we have that information.
For many years, Anchor Audio’s wireless handheld microphone (WH-6000), beltpack transmitter (WB-6000), built-in receivers and assistive listening equipment has operated in the 682-698 MHz frequency band. In a few geographic locations, where our customers have had interference with the standard frequencies, we have been able to substitute an alternate frequency set in the 540-570 MHz range, and this has proven very successful. Further, the Anchor UHF-7000 product line which offers 700 selectable frequencies also operates in the 540-570 MHz range and has experienced virtually no interference problems.
Based on our analysis of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, our engineering department initiated a research project to determine if we should convert our standard wireless microphone equipment from the 682-698 MHz range to the 540-570 MHz range. Our engineers conducted extensive tests on range, interference, latency, transmission in line of sight vs. through walls and other obstructions and antenna requirements. They determined that the 540-570 MHz range was an excellent technical choice and would provide our users with equipment which is not being targeted by the FCC.
In order to protect our users from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan regarding legal use of wireless microphone equipment, on August 1, 2014, Anchor Audio introduced a new series of wireless microphones which we believe will meet the new requirements. Our new wireless handheld microphone (WH-8000), beltpack transmitter (WB-8000), and built-in receivers operate on 540-570 MHz frequencies. This new frequency band is less crowded and provides optimal conditions for our receivers and wireless devices. Although we cannot know what the FCC will do in the future, a move to the 500MHz range frequency will provide a clear channel for our systems to operate on for the foreseeable future.