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Ban on 700MHz wireless now in full effect

The FCC’s order banning all wireless microphones from operation in the range of 698MHz to 806MHz passed on June 12. At that point in time, any RF systems capable of operation within that range, typically referred to as the 700MHz band, became illegal. This change enables the rollout of digital public safety communications services and consumer 4G wireless devices within this frequency range.

All users of wireless systems are strongly encouraged to check on the legality of their existing systems and take appropriate action.

Users who are unsure whether their wireless systems are affected should access the FCC website, which contains a detailed equipment listing by brand and model, including specific identifying descriptions, whether the device can be modified to operate legally and links to all major manufacturers. In most cases, the products involved are older or discontinued models, because most wireless makers “saw the writing on the wall” and stopped selling 700MHz products several years ago, in the words of Shure’s Christopher Lyons, manager of educational and technical communication.

Major wireless manufacturers including Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and AKG all have trade-in programs in place, most of which remain in effect until the end of June 2010. These programs generally enable the exchange of any brand of 700MHz wireless device for new, legal models, often at a substantial discount. The amount of discount varies with the age and brand of equipment involved. In Shure’s case, all trade-in products are sent directly to an EPA-approved electronics recycling firm, ensuring that all glass, metals and plastics are reclaimed and reused. “Nothing goes to a landfill,” Lyons said. “We’ve been doing this for several years, so Shure already has the infrastructure in place to ensure that returned products are properly recycled.”

As an alternative to trade-ins, some products are designed to be modified, and their manufacturers have programs in place to keep users up and running legally. Lectrosonics, HME, Electro-Voice and Telex all have products eligible for this treatment, and users are encouraged to contact those companies.

Finally, it’s important to realize that this ruling affects all wireless devices in the 700MHz range, not just microphones. The FCC refers to all of these devices, whether licensed or unlicensed, as “low-power auxiliary stations,” a classification that includes instrument wireless systems, wireless intercoms, in-ear monitors, IFB systems and the like.