MBIE makes final decisions on changes to radio spectrum usage

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has made its final decisions, after completing consultation with the industry, on changes to radio spectrum usage that will affect radio microphones operating in the 518-806MHz frequency range.

The government’s plans to reallocate the 700MHz “digital dividend” radio spectrum, which is to be auctioned shortly, to new uses will impact UHF radio microphones as they won’t be able to use the frequency range.

The final decisions are:

  • Confirmation that radio microphones will be able to use 698-806MHz frequency range until March 11, 2015, on a non-interference basis but after this date use will be prohibited.
  • The 502-582MHz and 622-698MHz frequency ranges will be available for radio microphone usage long term.
  • The 582-606MHz frequency range will be available for radio microphone usage after November 30, 2013.
  • The 606-622MHz frequency range will no-longer be available for radio microphone use.
  • Use of the lower guard band (698-703MHz) or any of the other guard bands will not be permitted beyond March 11, 2015.
  • From January 1, 2014, there will be restrictions preventing the sale and supply of radio microphones that operate in the 698-806MHz frequency range.
  • Digital standards will be provided for radio microphones in the 502-606MHz and 622- 698MHz frequency ranges.

When the changes are implemented this will be announced through the Ministry’s business update. The Ministry will begin a communications campaign to ensure affected parties are made aware of the changes.

MBIE says submitters to the consultation process expressed a need tor better information and an educational campaign so that users were made aware of the changes.

Radio microphones operate on a non-interference basis, so users will need to manage any incompatibility issues between digital and analogue, MBIE says.

One submission suggested that the lower frequency range for radio microphones be extended down from 510MHz to 502MHz, which is currently allocated for television broadcasting. MBIE accepted the suggestion, thus providing an additional 8MHz for radio microphone usage.

Radio microphone use in the television bands is on a secondary basis where the microphones have to work around the primary television use and not cause interference to television broadcasting. MBIE notes that Sky Television has the option to convert some of its existing analogues licences to digital. If Sky doesn’t take up any or all of its options by December 1, the frequencies will be returned to the Crown.

It’s generally accepted that users will probably need to upgrade to digital wireless microphones where the microphones can monitor multiple frequencies and jump to what is available. Older microphones have dedicated frequencies. That is likely to impose significant costs.

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