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FCC Making Rules for Wireless Mic Migration off Channels 52-69

Fulfilling a pledge made earlier this month, the FCC is seeking comment on the removal of wireless mics from Channels 52-69 (the 700 MHz spectrum), which are being turned over to Advanced Wireless Service providers.

Wireless mics (low-power auxiliary devices, the FCC calls them) would still be allowed to operate elsewhere on the DTV spectrum under the FCC proposal.

The FCC, broadcasters and mic makers have considered the issue for years, and mic maker Shure Inc. has said it welcomes the rulemaking so it can give clear direction for to its customers who operate on 700 MHz.

A coalition of groups supporting increased use of the DTV white spaces complained to the FCC in July that mic makers, specifically Shure, had illegally marketed mics that would operate in those frequencies.

Shure has said it’s doing nothing wrong and told the FCC that it voluntarily discontinued the sale of 700 MHz in 2007, and that allegedly offending mics were not offered for sale in the United States. The FCC order notes that the Shure Web site correctly states that the 700 MHz spectrum will be unavailable for wireless mics after the DTV transition.

The ongoing debate about use of white space has included analysis of whether such potential devices will be able to detect avoid channels being used by wireless mic. Shure and others panned the mic-sensing performance of the white space devices in tests at an NFL game and Broadway theater earlier this month.

The White Space Coalition (a group of big high-tech companies) and others have countered that the wireless mics themselves are operating in DTV channels without causing the kind of interference to television that the broadcasters say could come from white space devices.

The groups that are raising the complaint say the mics should be designated as secondary to Advanced Wireless Service operators, who have already purchased the licenses at auction and expect to use it after the full-power analog TV shutoff in February 2009. They advocate a newly invented license for “General Wireless Microphone Service,” with migration costs to be paid by the mic makers.

Instead of a secondary license in 700 MHz, the FCC order as proposed would remove low-power auxiliary devices—including the 156 current licensees—from the spectrum, noting there’s plenty of space elsewhere where they may apply to operate. It’s freezing new applications for 700 MHz use, and said it has also removed the spectrum from consideration in the white space proceeding.

The groups say that in addition to the licensed users, droves of unauthorized users are in churches, theaters and elsewhere, thanks to deceptive marketing by the mic makers. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has begun an investigation.

Shure Senior Director for Public and Industry Relations Mark Brunner said the charge that Shure misled its customers onto the spectrum is “a bit of misinformation” from the groups, and that Shure has been working with its customers to help them transition off the spectrum.

The FCC seeks comment on the matter for 30 days after the order is published in the Federal Register, and then replies for another 15 days.