Update: The digital dividend

As the digital switchover continues frequencies, currently occupied by wireless microphone users, are being sold off and while the events and music industries lobby for compensation measures, as well as their own dedicated frequencies, the trend continues worldwide. Sennheiser has provided InAVate with a handy guide to the situation across Europe.

In general the frequency block between 790 to 862Mhz will be given to IMT, International Mobile Telecommunications while license-free frequencies, 863 to 865MHz, are set to be harmonised EU-wide (but not an option for professional users).

UK: Channel 38 will be the one nationally available channel for radio microphone use; switchover from previous channel 69 to be made after the Olympic Games (at the end of 2012). The digital dividend is much larger than in other European countries, and will comprise 550 to 606 MHz in addition to 790 to 862 MHz. To make things worse, a great portion of the spectrum below 790 MHz will have to be shared with whitespace devices and digital TV.

Germany: The frequency range from 790 to 862 MHz has been auctioned off to the telecom industry. This was the main range for users of wireless equipment because of its uncomplicated and free access. Wireless microphones can still be used in this range until the end of 2015, but will then have to move out of this range. However, disturbance by wideband internet services is expected in this spectrum from the end of 2010.

Professional users can now apply for licenses in the remaining UHF spectrum, preferably in the range from 710 to 790 MHz. They will need to pay now and also need to select fixed frequencies to operate their system on. If the spectrum proves not to be enough, the federal network agency will consider opening up more UHF spectrum for wireless microphones. It is also expected that the so-called duplex gap (821 to 832 MHz) can be used by wireless microphones once tests have been finalised. All use of wireless equipment is on a secondary user basis, i.e. DVB-T and IMT have priority and must not be disturbed.

Austria: The frequency range of 790 to 862 MHz will not be available anymore for radio microphones. Radio microphones can still be used in regionally unused channels between TV allotments in the UHF range between 470 and 790 MHz. Spectrum access has to be applied for, a license is required.

Belgium: The digital dividend has been planned for 790 to 862 MHz but no concrete action (like an auction) has been taken yet. There are frequencies reserved for wireless mics and in-ears (both license-exempt and requiring a license) in a few TV channels in the 470 to 790 MHz range but not for all provinces of Belgium.

Denmark: All license-free frequencies are within the 790 to 862 MHz band which will be given away. Mics and IEMs can work as secondary users in the 470 to 790 MHz band, but a license is required.

Finland: Things are still under discussion, a decision as in Germany is most likely in the near future.

France: France has opened up the remaining UHF spectrum (470 to 790 MHz) for wireless microphone users (as secondary users, i.e. must take care not to disturb any primary user). Operation will probably also be possible in the future duplex gap (821 to 832 MHz).

Spain: Spain will probably follow the decision to open up the 790 – 862 MHz range for wireless internet. Officially, only the frequencies 863 – 865 MHz can be used by wireless mics.

Italy: There will probably be no space reserved for wireless microphones and users will have to try to slip in where they can. The 790 to 862 MHz range will not be sold off in the near future as many DVB-T stations operate in this range.

Netherlands: The Netherlands has quite a few license-free frequencies in the 470 to 790 MHz range (secondary user basis).

Norway: All license-free frequencies lie within the 790 to 862 MHz band and will be auctioned off. Norway is currently considering opening up other parts of the UHF spectrum.

Poland: Wireless mics can be operated license-free in the UHF spectrum from 470 to 862 MHz, no concrete plans for an auction yet.

Sweden: Offers licenses for the 470 to 790 band. The 790 – 862 MHz range was used by wireless mics as well, but they will have to move to 470 – 790 MHz in the future. A date for the auction is not yet known.

Switzerland: From 1 January 2013, wireless microphones can no longer be used in the frequency range of 790 to 862 MHz. To compensate for this loss in frequencies, the frequency band between 470 and 790 MHz will be opened up to radio microphones (licenses with costs), no matter whether they are used privately or by broadcasters.

Turkey: Has also listed 790 to 862 MHz as digital dividend. Currently, both license-exempt and licensed frequencies are available in the 470 to 862 MHz range. An auction date and plan for the switchover are not known yet.

For further reference Sennheiser has also provided a quick snapshot of what’s going on outside Europe.

USA: The spectrum from 698 – 806 MHz was auctioned off. Wireless microphones and monitoring systems are no longer allowed to operate in this range and have to move into the range below 698 MHz.

Canada: Canada will follow the US example and has already blocked frequencies above 698 MHz for secondary users.

Mexico: Until now there hasn’t been any parliament decision but professional users such as broadcasters are preparing themselves for a similar scenario as in the USA, i.e. with new equipment having to operate below 698 MHz.

Australia: The government is planning to declare the range from 624 – 820 MHz the digital dividend. This range will most likely be sold off, which would mean a loss of 43% of the spectrum for TV distribution and content production. Daily production in urban centres will be seriously affected. Problems will occur wherever productions take place in close proximity or with large-scale productions such as international sporting events, conferences and open air shows as well as live reporting from such events.

New Zealand: Similar situation as in Australia. New Zealand is planning to sell off the spectrum from 696 – 806 MHz.

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