Proposed wireless microphone amendments welcomed

Several thousand of the more than 150,000 wireless microphones which are set to be sent to the scrap heap on 31 December due to government regulations may now be saved through proposed changes to the Radiocommunications (Low Interference Potential Devices) Class Licence.

In a discussion paper released on 14 March, ACMA outlined a number of proposed changes that relax some of the rules surrounding the future use of wireless audio devices after the restack of digital television is completed at the end of this year. Some are largely changes of definitions and redundant requirements which reflect the cessation of analog broadcast transmission.

However, of significant impact to wireless audio users is the proposed authorisation of indoor use of wireless audio devices in the 520-694 MHz band. Unlike the current requirements of the class licence, this proposal will mean there is no limitation on the use of indoor wireless audio transmitters within the coverage area of broadcasting services.

This results in a number of benefits for users. Touring musicians and production companies for example will no longer need to acquire several sets of equipment to accommodate the different spectrum allocations across the country. Many users with existing equipment in the 520-694 MHz spectrum will no longer need to swap out their existing equipment for new equipment as a result of changes to TV broadcasting.

Of course this initiative does nothing to assist the hundreds of thousands of users of devices that operate between 694 and 820 MHz, who will still need to decommission their equipment prior to 31 December this year at a cost to the community of around $220 million. This is because from 1 January 2015 the spectrum above 694 MHz has been allocated to mobile phone use and it will be illegal to operate a radio microphone in that spectrum from that date.

“This is a commonsense but very welcome initiative by the ACMA. While it will assist many current users across the country in a range of industries, the greatest benefit will be for those companies involved in the production and touring sectors and offers tangible support to our multibillion-dollar live performance and events industries,” said Susan Twartz, chair of the Australian Wireless Audio Group, which represents manufacturers, distributors, resellers and users of wireless audio in Australia.

The full discussion paper can be downloaded here. Submissions must be completed by 27 April.

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