Holy Shure! Wireless Mics Need Fed License!!!

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Holy Shure! Wireless Mics Need Fed License!!!

Post by Piotr » Wed Jul 16, 2008 11:59 pm

Wireless microphones flap causing static

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By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 16, 2008

Filed at 10:23 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer groups are accusing Broadway actors, mega-church pastors, karaoke DJs and others who use popular wireless microphones of unwittingly violating Federal Communications Commission rules that require government licenses for such devices.

In a complaint filed Wednesday, the groups accused manufacturers, such as Shure Inc. of Niles, Ill., of deceptive advertising in the way they market and sell high-end, wireless microphones to people who are not legally permitted to use them.

The complaint recommends that the government agree to a general amnesty for unauthorized microphone users.

The legal filing on such a quirky subject raises serious questions for the U.S. government.

It alleges that after the nation's conversion to digital broadcasting in February, some of the microphones will threaten emergency communications and interfere with commercial wireless carriers, which spent $19 billion to use the same airwaves as the microphones.

It's unclear how many entertainers, pastors, musicians and others use wireless microphones. Analysts say there may be millions, most of whom do not understand that FCC rules require a license and include strict limits on who may qualify for such a license.

High-end wireless microphones operate in the same frequency bands as broadcast television stations. The devices are intended for use in the production of television or cable programming or the motion picture industry, according to FCC rules. Those users must obtain a government license.

FCC records show 952 people or organizations possess such licenses.

The complaint, filed with the FCC by a coalition of consumer groups known as the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, figures heavily in a steadily escalating battle between broadcasters and the technology industry over who should have access to frequencies that exist between television channels, also known as ''white spaces.''

The FCC rarely enforces the licensing requirements on the microphones because there have been so few complaints. The microphones are programmed to avoid television channels. Broadcasters haven't complained and the consumer groups accused the FCC of ''benign neglect'' regarding enforcement.

A spokesman for Shure, Mark Brunner, said the FCC understands that ''today's uses of wireless microphones provide a valuable and irreplaceable public good, regardless of the licensing scheme.''

FCC spokesman Robert Kenny confirmed that use of the microphones has drawn few complaints, but there may be some going forward ''and we recognize that.''

The commission is considering rules that will resolve interference problems among legal licensees, but there are concerns the fix won't address those users who are unlicensed.

Channels 52 through 69 in the UHF television band, currently used by broadcasters, will be vacated on Feb. 17 as they convert to digital broadcasting. The government sold that section of airwaves for $19 billion in the FCC's most successful auction in history.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. bought $16 billion worth of the licenses. The companies are expected to take years before they begin using them. Other parts of the television spectrum will be used by paramedics, police and firefighters.

It's not known how many wireless microphones operate in that range and will be subject to interference.

The FCC also is currently considering whether to allow companies to use the airwaves spaces between television channels, following the digital transition, for transmitting wireless broadband signals.

Consumer groups and some of the nation's largest technology companies -- including Google Inc., Microsoft Inc. and Dell Inc. -- say these white spaces represent enormous potential to make broadband more accessible. The nation's broadcasters, however, are unconvinced devices can be designed to avoid interfering with television signals.

The lawyer who wrote the complaint, Harold Feld of the public interest law firm Media Access Project, said wireless microphones have been the ''elephant in the room'' in the debate over white spaces.

Shure, Broadway theaters, the Grand Ole Opry and other users of wireless microphones objected to the FCC over future white-space devices because of fears about interference -- even though many of them haven't been granted government licenses for the microphones they're using.

That's a point not lost on the FCC chairman, who generally supports the initiative on white spaces.

''The complaint certainly highlights the fact that there are already other people using the white spaces in an unlicensed capacity and that's something we will look at going forward,'' the FCC's Kenny said.

The consumer groups are recommending that the FCC halt sales of wireless microphones that operate between channels 52 and 69 and create a new ''general wireless microphone service'' to operate in other parts of the airwaves. They also want the FCC to require microphone manufacturers to replace the older devices.

Shure says it stopped selling microphones that use the potentially troublesome frequencies in November of 2007.
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Post by Professor » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:59 am

That article is a little misleading, but there's no denying there will be problems in the coming years with those frequencies. I was just talking about this stuff with the folks from the Denver Center Theatre Company last week, since obviously they will be effected. Of course, it's not just "Broadway actors and mega-church pastors". It will effect almost every church, every kind of sporting event, every TV news crew, every large-venue rock concert, just think of all the places that use wireless microphones.
Honestly I don't know why these folks would be mad at Shure - they couldn't possibly have outbid Verizon or AT&T or Google (who also bought a big chunk of the airwaves). But then, the article says it's a complaint about Shure and a request for a general amnesty for the end users. The microphones are legal under the old system, but the new system just expects everything to be shut off and replaced.
Apparently the microphone manufacturers are also trying to get a digital wireless mic system in place in time, but they aren't happy with the sound quality yet... remember the early digital PCS phones? The digital signal would require less bandwidth and could have a codec that ensures a better lock on the signal, but they need to get the conversion and data compression to a quality that will still sound good over the PA system. PCS is adequate for telephone conversations, but not for wireless microphones.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that wireless microphones have really low-power transmitters. If you've ever tried to use one, you know exactly how far the signal does and doesn't carry. So the problem really isn't that the 0.5-wattt microphones will interfere with the television stations, but that the 50,000-watt TV antennas mess with the microphones. Ironically, the folks I talked with figure that the next 8 months leading up to next february will be the most difficult time. As all of the digital TV stations finally come on line but their analog counterparts aren't turned off. Once the analog stations shut down in February, the airwaves will be relatively clear... until the new bandwidth owners roll out their products. That might be months or years, but it won't all go away at once. So there will be a bit of time for the manufacturers to get their new digital products online. Of course, regardless of how long it takes, the old systems will eventually need to be replaced and that will suck for a lot of folks who have a lot of expensive microphones already on-hand.

-Jeremy

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Post by Weasel9992 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:31 am

Professor wrote:Anyway, the important thing to remember is that wireless microphones have really low-power transmitters. If you've ever tried to use one, you know exactly how far the signal does and doesn't carry. So the problem really isn't that the 0.5-wattt microphones will interfere with the television stations, but that the 50,000-watt TV antennas mess with the microphones.
Good point Jeremy. That's the reason this generally just isn't a big problem. I mean, you're talking about *maybe* 100' range until you need a repeater of some kind, which is itself only a very low-power amplifier. I wouldn't be worried about the Feds coming in and shutting down your church service because you're using a wireless mic or anything.

Now, what lengths the new "owners" of this bandwidth might go to to protect it is an unknown...

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Post by akg414 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:42 am

World Trade Center gets bombed, our economy is in the toilet, gas price, locusts, but let's go after those wireless-mic wielding varmints... :shock:
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Post by KilledByAlbany » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:57 pm

A dude on a different board I reposted this article on wrote:Imagine the prospect of emergency departments being misled by picking up shitty metal vocalists' lyrics. "Sir, we just received a transmission that heaven is burning, it sounds serious."

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Post by Weasel9992 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:01 pm

KilledByAlbany wrote:
A dude on a different board I reposted this article on wrote:Imagine the prospect of emergency departments being misled by picking up shitty metal vocalists' lyrics. "Sir, we just received a transmission that heaven is burning, it sounds serious."
That is frickin' awesome.

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Post by akg414 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:00 pm

Weasel9992 wrote:
KilledByAlbany wrote:
A dude on a different board I reposted this article on wrote:Imagine the prospect of emergency departments being misled by picking up shitty metal vocalists' lyrics. "Sir, we just received a transmission that heaven is burning, it sounds serious."
That is frickin' awesome.

Frank
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Post by evengangstersreadtapeop » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:18 pm

I remember there was something in the news about 2 months ago where people used wireless mics as an example of an industry that wasn't being hounded by the FCC.. I guess that has changed now!

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Post by 0-it-hz » Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:57 am

Just FYI, most of the theatres here in SF that can afford it are going to digital wireless right now. Local ciscus show I mix for on occasion is getting them next month in fact.

70 channels all stuffed into the 2.4ghz band, crazy.

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Post by Scodiddly » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:41 am

I smell Astroturf... who are these "consumer groups" and why are they pissed at Shure all of a sudden?

Digital wireless sort of makes sense, but it also adds yet more latency to the signal which is bad in a live situation. No fun to be performing when your in-ears are 10-15mS behind what's coming out of your mouth or from your guitar.

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Post by aitikin » Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:40 pm

0-it-hz wrote:70 channels all stuffed into the 2.4ghz band, crazy.
Along with 11 channels of wifi and I forget how many channels of cordless phone that can cause that wonderful thing called interference...
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Post by 0-it-hz » Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:42 am

Yes and no to the interference..... hiding a digital signal on an anolog carrier doesn't have the same issues as good ole RF.... I'm sure there are stumbling blocks but I've seen 50+ channels wide open and happening in an urban arena in italy with no issues.... and we were within 100 meters of dozens of offices/apartments.
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