Question: What is the story behind the 600 MHz incentive auction? (Why will my 600 MHz wireless microphone system eventually be unusable?)
Answer: Everyone loves their smartphone. I certainly do. One can hardly remember a time when they couldn’t check their bank balance before making a purchase or check the menu at a restaurant before choosing where to eat. What about receiving an alarm telling you that a door at your home was opened while you are on vacation and the ability to look at a camera directed at that door to see who’s there? How long can you go without checking your email or your friends’ Facebook statuses? There’s no denying it, mobile broadband use has become an important part of our personal and professional lives. But mobile broadband needs spectrum (think frequencies) to operate, and the need for more and more spectrum grows as the number of users and applications increases.
Spectrum is finite, and in the United States it’s the FCC’s job to regulate chunks of spectrum to meet the needs of non-federal users. If the spectrum were unmanaged, communications through the air would interfere with one another and become useless. So there are rules – lots of rules – around the use of the available spectrum. In the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Congress authorized the FCC to set forth incentive auctions to meet the nation’s accelerating spectrum needs. In the FCC’s Report and Order (Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions), they defined the process of a reverse auction in which broadcasters would voluntarily relinquish some or all of their spectrum, a forward auction allowing flexible-use licenses suitable for providing mobile broadband services and a “repack” of the broadcast TV spectrum so that the television stations that remain on the air post-incentive auction occupy a smaller portion of the UHF band. In simpler terms, TV stations agreed to give up their spectrum or be relocated so that spectrum could be sold to broadband service providers. All of the 614–698 MHz spectrum was sold.
Why the 600 MHz band and not higher frequencies? Low-band (the frequencies below 1 GHz) spectrum is particularly valuable because it increases the reach of mobile networks over long distances at far less cost than spectrum above 1 GHz.
The Audio-Technica wireless systems affected by this change are the 1800 Series (D-Band), 2000 Series (D-Band), 3000 Series (D-Band), 4000 Series (D-Band), 5000 Series (D-Band), M2 (M-Band), M3 (M-Band).
Now for the $19.63B question (the amount made by the auction): When will your 600 MHz wireless system be unusable? Depending on your location, you may be able to use your 600 MHz system until July 13, 2020. However, in some situations you will be affected sooner. In some locations auction winners will be able to register and start testing or using spectrum as soon as they are ready. For example, T-Mobile, who purchased a large portion of the spectrum, plans to begin using some of the spectrum in certain areas by year’s end. There is no way to predict exactly when that will happen. However, in those instances, wireless microphone users cannot create any interference to the new licensee and must accept any interference from the new licensee until the end of the transition period, at which time it will become illegal to operate the wireless microphone.
Given the uncertainties surrounding the transition process, Audio-Technica is offering a 600 MHz “Trade In On Your Terms” rebate program. Running through March 2020, the program is designed to let you maximize your current wireless investment, budget for a new system and make the switch when you’re ready. See the complete details of the trade-in rebate program here.
For additional information about the 600 MHz incentive auction and transition, please visit the 600 MHz Wireless FAQs page on our website. If you have further questions, feel free to contact the Audio Solutions Department for assistance.