Radio Frequencies for Microphones – things are changing!

For a long time the ‘Events’ industry (or PMSE – Programme Making and Special Events as Ofcom call it) have used a small slice of the available frequencies nestling around the Analogue TV frequencies to transmit our speeches and talks on Radio Microphone Systems. But Ofcom, who deal with all this have decided to release various ‘channels’ (frequency ranges) for different uses, such as Digital TV.

This has been on the cards for a while now, with the consultation document hitting the streets on the 2nd of Feb, giving us as an industry until April 2009 to let them know what we think.  

The Ofcom report is here- Digital dividend: clearing the 800 MHz band. Currently it looks like the frequencies mostly used for PMSE is going to be auctioned off for alternative uses, with the plan to move the PMSE spectrum to a new section of frequencies. 

So how will this affect the people on the streets? Well if you have a current UHF radio mic system (Ultra High Frequency – generally considered to be 300MHz to 3GHz see here), it’s likely to work on a series of set frequencies, typically 854 to 865Mhz (with 854-862MHz currently requiring a licence being Channel 69). These frequencies will be sold off to enable their use for alternative purposes, meaning that unless you own the licence, you will be acting illegally. However the proposed new PMSE frequencies, most likely to be channel 38 which is currently used for Radio Astronomy, are lower in the ‘spectrum’, with the proposed frequencies being too low for most current radio mic systems to transmit on. 

So it looks like if the proposals are agreed, that we will all need to be looking to replace our radio microphone systems with new equipment that is capable of operating on the existing frequencies while they are still available, and also working on the new frequencies once they become available.

Obviously this impacts us- we sell radio microphones to our customers, and we’ll need to make sure we continue to give them the best possible value for money. Currently if your looking to replace a system that still works, it might be best to hold off until the position on the spectrum us agreed, and the manufacturers start to release equipment that will work on the new channels. That said if you need to replace dead equipment, you don’t really have any other options other than to go with what is currently on offer.

We’ll keep you posted on how things unfold. Sign up to our E-News letter to help keep abreast of the forth coming changes.