Wireless Mayhem

Well all of us that use wireless microphones in our venues now need to think about what to do next. Now that the government has decided to sell off the spectrum that most of these devices work in, we need to have an alternative. Also now is not a good time to purchase new ones until we see what really is going to happen. The range that is being sold is a contiguous block of spectrum in the upper ultra-high frequency (UHF) band, comprising the frequency range 694 to 820 MHz inclusive.Now the government does highlight the advantages of this sell off and I agree that there could be some advantages but what about the groups of people that are going to be disadvantaged. The main one that I am concerned about is the entertainment industry. There are ever increasing numbers of radio mics etc being used on shows. Even the humble school musical are using dozens of radio mics.

So are we guilty of wishful thinking that the government will still allow us to use these devices in the bands that they want to auction off. I know that Google in their submission argued the point that the frequencies should be open to users and that the radio mics systems that already use these bands maybe still be allowed to continue. “There are many ways safely and reliably to protect current users of spectrum, such as wireless microphones in the UHF spectrum, from interference with cognitive devices, even if they are licence-exempt. A combination of interference mitigation techniques including, but not restricted to geo-location and spectrum sensing technology, can continue to protect incumbent, licensed operation of digital television and PMSE in the band” (Google, Submission on Digital Dividend Green Paper, 2010)
This is similar to their argument they used in the States when they bid for a ranges of frequencies that the government there had up for auction.

Now it seems to me that the government needs to leave aside some spectrum for the use of class-licensed uses for wireless audio and music devices.  A lot of people over the years have invested large amounts of cash in to purchasing radio mic systems, are these just going to become redundant? There is over 120,000 devices currently being used in Australia. So you see this is a large investment, now if venues and hire companies etc are going to have to replace their equipment this is going to put severe financial strain on them. So companies have hundreds and are they going to spend the hundreds of thousands to replace them with new, and how long will it take for them to recoup that cost. They are not going to be able to buy a few each year. They are going to have to replace all of there stock in one go. And how much of an impact is this going to have on the types of performances that are staged. Will groups and shows change the type of production that they will present as they don’t have as much access to radio mics etc.

Will other frequency bands be made available if the government does auction the spectrum that is currently used. And if spectrums are made available, such as  access to the 520Mhz and the proposed 694Mhz band, will there be enough time for the transition to happen smoothly?

These are questions we need to keep asking the powers to be? We don’t want this to linger on a become a right royal mess. We need to be planning what equipment to purchase now and budgeting for it.

Below is the Government media release in full:

Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Size and Location of the Digital Dividend

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today announced the Australian Government has decided to release 126 Megahertz of broadcasting spectrum as a digital dividend.

The decision was made following extensive public consultation through the Digital Dividend Green Paper.

This spectrum will become available as a result of the switch to digital-only television broadcasting, which will be completed in Australia by 31 December 2013.

“Once analog television signals have been completely switched off and the spectrum subsequently cleared of other users, 126MHz of spectrum will be freed-up,” Senator Conroy said.

This presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve communication services available in Australia, This spectrum is known as the ‘digital dividend’.”

The digital dividend will be released as a contiguous block of spectrum in the upper ultra-high frequency (UHF) band, comprising the frequency range 694 to 820 MHz inclusive.

“The Government’s decision on the size and location of the digital dividend is a crucial step in the process of releasing spectrum to enable next generation communications services,” Senator Conroy said.

“This decision will allow the necessary work on digital channel planning and the auction of the spectrum to commence.”

UHF spectrum currently used for broadcasting services is highly valued for delivering wireless communications services, including super-fast mobile broadband. It is able to carry signals over long distances, penetrate buildings and carry large amounts of data.

Releasing the digital dividend is an historic micro-economic reform.

“The ability to have high capacity internet access in a range of locations is proving valuable to users of 3G networks both in Australia and overseas, and demand is growing rapidly,” Senator Conroy said.

Wireless broadband is an important complement to fixed line services, and the release of this spectrum will enhance and support the services that will be enabled by the Government’s investment in the National Broadband Network.”

In its submission to the Digital Dividend green paper, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) indicated that Australia’s economy could be boosted by up to $10 billion if at least 120 megahertz of usable spectrum is unlocked from the digital dividend.

“A contiguous dividend of 126 MHz will deliver substantial connectivity and productivity benefits for Australia, while ensuring that the high quality free-to-air television that Australians enjoy will continue,” Senator Conroy said.

The Government aims to auction the digital dividend spectrum in the second half of 2012, allowing successful bidders ample time to plan and deploy the next generation networks that are likely to utilise the spectrum.

In order to release this highly valued spectrum, broadcasting services will need to be relocated out of the digital dividend spectrum and organised more efficiently within their remaining spectrum allocation. This process is known as ‘restacking’.

“My Department, along with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, will work with broadcasters and other stakeholders to plan and implement the restack of television channels,” Senator Conroy said.

The Government intends that the digital dividend spectrum be cleared as soon as possible after the switch-off of analog television services on 31 December 2013.

The digital dividend green paper and copies of submissions received can be found at: www.dbcde.gov.au/digitaldividend.

The Australian Government is committed to building the infrastructure and creating the appropriate regulatory framework that will underpin the development of the Digital Economy and bring significant social and economic benefits to all Australians.


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