“This is a wake up call, because it’s a truth that we have taken wireless microphone usage as a freebie, like a free resource.”
Kevin Peckham, Training and Special Projects, and wireless expert with Full Compass Systems is trying to be nicely blunt with these words concerning the overly crowded wireless spectrum world performers and audio professionals live in these days. Peckham recently gave a lecture on the crowded wireless space to several groups at the WFX REACH conference in North Carolina and Texas.
“As more and more services clamor for space to have wireless devices between consumer devices and professional applications, it gets tighter and tighter to find a place to use wireless microphones,” says Peckham.
With the onset and massive popularity of cell phones and smartphones, to a universe of wireless devices over the years, we’ve simply run out of room. And that’s why the “Wireless Spectrum Auction” with the FCC has been such an issue for nearly a decade.
According to CIO magazine, television stations have been given incentives to sell off 126MHz of “beach front” wireless spectrum. While that’s helped mobile carries, it hasn’t helped out performance spaces, trade shows, houses of worship or education systems very much.
“Due to changes happening now, we’re going to lose a huge hunk of spectrum that was available for wireless microphones,” warns Peckham. “I don’t want people to panic but I also don’t want people to be caught unaware.”
Peckham says today is the day to figure out how to better use what we have to work with because wireless spectrum is now a scarce resource and “we need to use it more efficiently.”
Peckham says all is not lost – yet. Manufacturers like Shure, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica are working hard to make sure that their products work in a crowded spectrum. Due to this new wireless audio reality, Peckham says we’ve watched manufacturers working tirelessly “and the technology has progressed from Special Diversity to Frequency Diversity and now Time Diversity to ensure we continue to have a strong wireless microphone signal.”
“We just have to know how to use these things smartly and I’m hopeful that Full Compass and the entire audio industry will become a better resource for consumers to navigate all of the changes happening with our audio production,” says Peckham.
As this issue evolves, Peckham suggests tapping into all available online resources from companies like Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and RF Venue. “Take a look at their blogs and chat rooms. They are full of some excellent information and advice.”
Peckham empathizes with pro-audio experts out there trying to navigate inside the smaller and smaller box of wireless spectrum we have remaining. “We are looking at a lot of changes this year. A lot of rules that are changing and a lot to understand about what’s going to be different in the years ahead.” Peckham adds, “And like a lot of resources that get tight, knowing how best to operate with those diminished resources is going to make the difference from operating effectively or just being frustrated.”
Peckham says it’s time audio pros focus on what they have to work with, instead of what they don’t. “Because right now, we all don’t have everything we need.”
Peckham’s last bit of advice for keeping up with the spectrum changes: take a look at upgrading your older wireless microphone systems. “What we’re finding is what worked back then, just isn’t working well anymore.”