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Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes… Future spectrum availability for PMSE

Access to radio spectrum for wireless microphones and in-ear monitor systems (Program Making & Special Events equipment) is taken for granted by many people. However, the world of spectrum access is changing and some wireless PMSE equipment will be adversely affected by these changes…

The 700 MHz band

This frequency band (694-790 MHz) will cease to be available for PMSE applications in the UK from April, 2020. The band has been allocated across the EU for the deployment of new mobile broadband services. In Germany and France the band has already been auctioned and services are starting to be rolled out. This situation will be replicated across other European countries over the next 3 years. This change will not just affect equipment that tunes to frequencies in the 700 MHz band. The re-stack of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services into frequencies below 694 MHz could also render some equipment that tunes to frequencies below 694 MHz, redundant. This is because DTT services will ‘appear’ on frequencies below 694 MHz where there were previously no DTT transmissions.

At the time of writing, the DTT re-stack plan is still being worked on. Consequently, it is not possible at this stage to predict precisely what equipment will be affected, or where. However, a 700 MHz clearance look up tool has been produced by Ofcom UK to help with this. PMSE equipment users/purchasers are advised to read the last sentence on the above referenced web page carefully.

Also still being worked on, is just what the UK PMSE compensation/funding scheme will ultimately consist of. While it is good news that, after considerable lobbying activities by the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG), the UK authorities have accepted that a funding scheme is required, there is still much debate going on with regards to what the terms of the final scheme will be. Discussions are ongoing.

Where to go and for how long?

SENNHEISER EM 6000 DANTE RADIOMIC RECEIVERThe EU’s Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) released a draft opinion on the medium to long-term spectrum requirements after 2020 for PMSE (both audio and video) earlier this year. The draft opinion was released for public consultation and the closing date for responses was September 30th, 2017. In the draft opinion it is suggested that the remainder of the UHF band (470-694 MHz) should be secure for DTT and audio PMSE until at least 2030. However, there are plans for a review of the use of all UHF spectrum in 2023/2025.

Outside of the ‘traditional’ UHF bands there are other ‘sub-bands’ that are available for audio PMSE use in the UK. Below is a list of what bands are currently available for use by audio PMSE along with details on ‘terms of spectrum access’, including the established UHF bands.

173.8 - 175 MHz Licence exempt
175 - 210 MHz Licence required
470 - 606 MHz Licence required
606 - 614 MHz Shared licence required* (this band is commonly referred to as ‘channel 38’ – UK only)
614 - 790 MHz Licence required (this frequency band will be ‘truncated’ by the release of the 700 MHz band, eventually becoming 614 – 694 MHz)
823 - 832 MHz Shared licence required*
863 - 865 MHz Licence exempt
1518 - 1525 MHz Licence required
1785 - 1800 MHz Shared licence required*
1880 - 1900 MHz Licence exempt (DECT)
2400 - 2483 MHz Licence exempt (shared with WiFi, Bluetooth etc.)

*A shared licence covers users for the three bands 606 - 614, 823 - 832 and 1785 -1800 MHz.

See details on licensing audio PMSE equipment in the UK.

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