The FCC repack will affect you. Are you ready?
Most everyone using wireless technology in the United States will be impacted by the FCC repack results announced in April of 2017. Users will be forced to abandon older UHF solutions in search of solutions that work with the new federal regulations. Many corporations such as T-Mobile® and Dish Network® have been investing billions into purchasing the UHF band to expand their network and capabilities. The government’s transition period for UHF users to vacate the band is scheduled out over the next 12–18 months; however, as out of October 2017, T-Mobile has already begun ramping up their efforts to start UHF testing in several markets across the U.S.. If you use wireless technologies such as intercom systems and wireless microphones, it is important that you understand how the changes will specifically affect your current wireless solutions.
What is the “Repack”?
The FCC defines the repack as “reorganizing television stations in the broadcast television bands so that stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction occupy a smaller portion of the UHF band, thereby freeing up a portion of that band for new wireless services uses.”(Source: FCC website’s “Primer for Broadcasters”)
Changes beginning in 2017 concerning operation on 600 MHz frequencies
Beginning in 2017, the amount of TV band spectrum available for wireless microphone use is decreasing as a result of the incentive auction, which was completed on April 13, 2017. A significant portion of the TV band spectrum in the 600 MHz band, including most (but not all) of the spectrum on TV channels 38–51 (614–698 MHz), has been repurposed for the new 600 MHz service band for use by wireless services, and this portion will not continue to be available for wireless microphone use. (Figure 1 – FCC Band Plan Scenarios.) Specifically, wireless microphones that operate in the new 600 MHz service band (the 617–652 MHz and 663–698 MHz frequencies) will be required to cease operation no later than July 13, 2020, and may be required to cease operation sooner if they could cause interference to new wireless licensees that commence operations on their licensed spectrum in the 600 MHz service band. (Sources FCC 14-50, FCC 15-140, and DA 17-314) Spectrum will continue to be available for wireless microphone use on the other TV channels 2–36 (TV band frequencies that fall below 608 MHz), on portions of the 600 MHz guard band (the 614–616 MHz frequencies), in the 600 MHz duplex gap (the 653–663 MHz frequencies), and in various other spectrum bands outside of the TV bands. (Sources FCC 15-100, FCC 15-99) You can view this transition schedule in greater detail on the FCC’s website.
Figure 1: FCC Band Plan Scenarios
Bands outside of TV bands that are available for wireless microphone use
In 2015, the Commission provided for new opportunities for licensed wireless microphone operations in spectrum outside of the TV broadcast band, including in the 169–172 MHz band, portions of the 900 MHz band, the 1435–1525 MHz, and the 6875–7125 MHz band. Unlicensed wireless microphone operations are permitted in several bands outside of the TV bands, including the 902–928 MHz band, the 1920–1930 MHz band, and portions of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. (Source FCC 15-100) Even with this repack, operation can continue via alternative frequency bands.
Whether you are considering purchasing new wireless intercom system or simply wanting to ensure the usefulness of your current system (if it remains in a legal operating frequency), here are a few important things to keep in mind:
- 614–698 MHz will be repurposed during a 39-month transition schedule. If any of your current wireless systems can operate somewhere between 614–698 MHz, they will be illegal to use as of July 2019. This expanded time period is intended to give TV channels and other users the time to shift their systems out of that part of the UHF spectrum. You may soon discover in some areas that you are already receiving interference from the new signal being deployed by various carriers.
- Timing of the change will vary. During the transition period, there is no guarantee as to when the UHF band will become unavailable for wireless intercom. Companies who purchased a large portion of the spectrum have already received approval to begin testing in the 600 MHz space. This could mean that systems operating in the 600 MHz range will become less viable and more difficult to tune to open frequencies.
- For most people, UHF intercom systems will be rendered obsolete.
- Using wireless intercom in unlicensed ISM bands can be complicated by many RF users or other RF sources. It is critical to choose a wireless intercom system that is designed to mitigate RF difficulties that can occur in unlicensed bands.
- If you own a wireless intercom system that operates in the 600 MHz range, the best course of action is to replace it with a system that operates outside of that range.
For more than 25 years, CoachComm has provided wireless intercom solutions that remain timeless in application and value. As the professional division of CoachComm, Pliant Technologies, LLC continues this level of commitment to customers by offering innovative solutions that solve challenging problems in what is most certainly becoming a more complicated RF landscape. If you have any questions about this information or have questions regarding which wireless intercom system best fits your applications in this new and changing RF environment, feel free to contact our sales team at 334.321.1160 or firstname.lastname@example.org