700MHz Spectrum Clearance

700MHz Spectrum Clearance

Wireless spectrum is a highly sought after commodity. Most of us use it in our everyday lives without considering its value. We all make calls from our mobiles, check our mail on our mobile devices and surf the web on our near connector less laptops. Some of us even have wirelessly connected fridges these days. In fact it is estimated that by 2020 there will be 7 billion mobile devices in the world (IDC, 2018). At some point most of us will have been sat watching TV streamed to a mobile device while on the go, or will have watched a YouTube video of a gig or a show. Accessing those services all requires use of valuable wireless spectrum – whether that’s Wi-Fi, GSM, 3G, 4G or White Space. But we also need to use that same piece of spectrum to produce the content we’re watching on streamed TV or YouTube. Wireless microphones, in ear monitors, wireless cameras, show communications systems – they all need to utilise their own little bit of spectrum. Without them, there’d be no picture to watch on the TV show, and the gig would be very quiet with no lead vocal.

By May 2020 Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) users will have access to almost 40% less of the UHF spectrum than in 2012. In 2012 the UK government made the 800MHz band available almost exclusively to mobile phone services. In 2020 they’ll be doing the same with the 700MHz band. That means the PMSE users and equipment will only have the range from 470MHz – 694MHz available for use, and that has to be shared with TV broadcasters terrestrial transmissions across the country.

The Challenges of Reduced Spectrum Availability

The reduction of available spectrum for PMSE users poses two basic challenges to the entertainment industry. Firstly, engineers will have to work harder and smarter to find available, clean, suitable space within the available spectrum in which to deploy their equipment. Further planning will be required to ensure a chosen set of equipment will work at all venues on a tour and there will be much less scope for ‘hoping’ to find a clean frequency on arrival at a location. Secondly, equipment owners may well find themselves with vast quantities of stock with a tuneable range that is now either partly or wholly unusable.

In response to the first challenge, there is no substitute for knowledge, experience and education. There are many highly skilled and respected RF technicians across the industry, but even small shows will soon require an improved understanding of RF theory and practice to properly deploy wireless systems. Manufacturers including Sennheiser and Shure offer classroom based training on the use and deployment of wireless systems. Although these carry an obvious focus on their own respective equipment, there are valuable lessons to be learned from both on the fundamentals of wireless audio system for entertainment and the theory of RF transmission.

Once on sight, it’s also important to understand the RF environment in which we are operating. RF scanners have become an invaluable tool in system deployment, as has coordination software such as Shure’s Wireless Workbench. These tools allow for transmitters to be tuned in a coordinated network reducing the risk of interference between transmissions.

With regard to the second challenge, the treasury have made available funding for users who are affected by the restriction of use (or loss of use) of their existing equipment. The compensation scheme called the Digital Dividend means successful claimants can offset the cost of new equipment by claiming at least 60% of the replacement equipment’s cost. Successful claimants:

  • Must be able to prove they own the equipment
  • Purchased the equipment before the 23rd of August 2018
  • Held an OFCOM licence in the 700MHz band between October 17th, 2014 and August 23rd, 2018
  • Surrender the equipment in working order, which has some of its tuning bandwidth between 694MHz and 790MHz.

What Next?

The OFCOM portal for claiming your compensation is no live and claims must be submitted before April 26th 2019. Visit pmsefunding.co.uk.

New Equipment

ML Executives can supply the complete Sennheiser range of products across all available frequency ranges. From the budget options of XS Wireless & XS Wireless Digital, through to the fourth generation of the legendary evolution range and on to the state of the art D6000 & D9000 systems Sennheiser produce a product to fit just about every need. ML Executives specialise in supplying bespoke packages to meet client’s individual needs, so contact Martin to discuss your requirements and get a price today.

Call Martin today on 01322 55282 or email martin@mlexecutives.com.