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Listening Devices: New FCC Rules On Wireless Microphones

February 22, 2010 - As a part of the digital TV transition, the 700 MHz band has been reallocated from TV use to public safety and new wireless services. There are some wireless microphones that shared that band with TV stations, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an order that wireless microphone can no longer be used on that band. The order reads:

Under a new FCC rule, anyone who uses a wireless microphone that operates in the 700 MHz Band must stop operating their wireless microphone no later than June 12, 2010. All users of 700 MHz Band wireless microphones (and similar devices) - including theaters, churches, schools, conference centers, theme parks, and musicians ill need to retune (where possible) or replace their wireless microphone equipment with other microphone devices no later than June 12, 2010. This action helps complete an important component of the DTV Transition by clearing the 700 MHz band to enable the rollout of communications services for public safety and the deployment of next generation 4G wireless devices for consumers.

Not Affected:

* Assistive Listening Devices that operate on the 49 MHz, 72-76 MHz, and 216-217 MHz bands are not affected.

* Audio Induction loops or Infrared systems that have corded microphones are not affected.

It is only wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band that are affected. The chapter may have an audio induction loop or Infrared system that has wireless microphones attached, or a church or other place may have wireless microphones attached to the sound system.

To determine if your wireless microphones are affected:

Look for the frequency band. It may be printed on the outside of the microphone, or inside the battery compartment, or on the back or bottom of the receiver that is used with the microphone. The instruction manual may also have the frequency band listed. The 700 MHz band really means any frequency between 698 to 806 MHz. If your system falls within that band it is affected.

If you cannot locate the frequency band, you may see the notations "VHF" or "UHF". Older microphone systems used the VHF bands, and microphones on VHF are still available and are OK to use. VHF means "Very High Frequency". The now restricted 700 MHz band is in the UHF section, which means "Ultra High Frequency". So, VHF is OK and UHF may be OK or it may not be OK, depending on the frequency.

There are 100's of brands and models of wireless microphones and every brand is different. Some brands have good support and information on web pages and have a procedure in place to modify the affected microphones, or have a rebate policy or a trade-in policy.

The FCC has posted information about the new rule at: www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones as well as a list of manufactures who have microphones that are no longer allowed to operate www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/manufacturers.html. However, information is lacking for a lot of brands.

It is not possible for users in the field to re-tune or modify the wireless microphones themselves. All modifications have to be done by the manufacturer or someone the manufacturer designates.

The chapter should contact the manufacturer or the place where the system was purchased to find out if the system can be modified or if there is a rebate or trade-in program.

HLAA stands ready to assist chapters if needed. Send an email to hat@hearingloss.org with the brand and model number of your microphone and the model number of the receiver that goes with it. If we find information or can't find it, we will let you know. The modifications may not be free, so the chapter will have to decide if it is worthwhile to modify or purchase new equipment.

As a word of warning, there may be some shoddy operators who are still selling restricted microphones, so if the chapter decides to purchase new equipment, make sure it is not in the affected frequency range.

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