By now you have probably heard that in 2012 Ofcom will be clearing out the 800Mhz frequency band which includes Channel 69. If you own any radio microphones or other RF equipment such as IEMs (In Ear Monitors) that operate within this spectrum you will be effected by this and you can’t ignore it. The entertainment industry fought long and hard against these changes, but Ofcom have made the decision and whether we like it or not it’s going to happen!
This article will tell you what exactly is happening, what you can do and what help is available to make the transition easier.
In June 2009 Ofcom announced their intention to clear the 800Mhz band and make it available for new services. The existing PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) users on Channel 69 will be allocated a new range in Channel 38 from 606-614 Mhz. Currently Channel 38 is used for radio astronomy, but they are due to vacate this range by the end of 2011. However analogue TV is currently sitting above and below these frequencies in Channels 37 and 39 and won’t be clear until the digital switch over has completed in 2012. This means in some parts of the country there will be no chance to switch to Channel 38 until this time. Having said that, in some locations it is already possible to use Channel 38 for radio mics and IEMs on a site specific licence. Are you following all this? It’s confusing isn’t it!
What is worth noting is that the de-regulated / license exempt frequencies in Channel 70 (863-865 MHz) will not be effected. If you don’t require a licence for your radio mic you don’t need to panic. It’s worth checking that you aren’t already using a Channel 69 frequency illegally though. If your radio mic or IEM is tuned to anything other than 863-865 you need to get a licence, or change the frequency!
So to surmise, PMSE users will keep access to Channel 69 across the whole of the UK until the 1st July 2012. Users in London, Northern Ireland and the Northeast of England will have use until the 1 October 2012. The rest of the country has no firm date yet but will have to be clear no later than 31st December 2012 though this could be bought forward.
What can you do?
Now you know what’s happening, what are you options? Well the first and most obvious answer is to take your existing Channel 69 equipment and dump it unceremoniously in the nearest bin. You can then buy new kit that will work happily in the 606-614 Mhz range, who doesn’t like getting new equipment anyway? This is certainly going to be your easiest option, but it probably won’t be the cheapest.
The first thing you should probably do is check whether your equipment can be re-tuned, a lot of the new radio mics sold now have this ability so check your manufacturers website or give them a call. If this isn’t an option Ofcom are proposing a funding scheme aimed to help those affected by the changes. Those eligible would be:
- Users who purchased before 2nd February 2009 equipment capable of tuning to Channel 69 but not Channel 38 and were in possession of a valid Channel 69 licence after 2nd February 2008.
- Licensed users who needed to buy Channel 69 equipment between February 2009 and 30 June 2009.
- and Rental companies
Users who will not be eligible for funding under the proposals are:
- Ch31 – 37 and Ch60 – 68 users.
- Users whose equipment does not tune to Channel 69.
- Users whose equipment tunes to Channel 69 but also tunes to Channel 38.
- Users who have never held a licence to operate Channel 69.
- Users who purchase Channel 69 equipment after 30 June 2009.
Under these proposals the funding allocated will be based on the value of the equipment in 2012. Also, in an attempt to provide a solution to Channel 38 not being available nationwide before 2012, Ofcom are planning to include access to frequencies from Channel 39 and Channel 40 in the shared licence arrangements for Channel 38.
I must stress that the above funding suggestions are just proposals and there is no guarantee any of them will actually happen.
Right now the only thing you can really do is be prepared. I wouldn’t advise you to buy any new equipment that can’t be re-tuned when the need arises. If any of the funding proposals do come to fruition, they won’t cover any purchases made now anyway.
To aid with the switch over the JFMG (Joint Frequency Management Group) are now supplying all Channel 69 licences with Channel 38 licences. So if it’s available in your area, make the switch to Channel 38 now! There’s a great on-line checker provided by JFMG that shows the availability of Channels 38, 39 and 40 at the Channel lookup site.
In the mean time if you have any questions about any of the issues and how they might affect you, post a question in the Forum.
For more information you can visit the following websites:
- JFMG (Joint Frequency Management Group)
- BEIRG (British Entertainment Industry Radio Group)
- Ofcom (Office of Communications)