DTV Transition Delayed (Again)

Honestly, I'm getting tired of blogging about this. So tired, in fact, that I ignored it for a week hoping it would change and I wouldn't have to. So far, that's not happened. Here's a quick update. The House & Senate have both passed a bill, which the President has signed that will now delay the mandatory end of high-powered analog TV stations until June 12, 2009. Since this has been dragging out for 8 years, I guess they figured another 4 months wouldn't hurt. On the other hand, I'm not sure how it helps. Be that as it may.

This ruling poses several interesting challenges for wireless mic users. First, it may lull some into thinking they have more time to get out of the 700 Mhz spectrum. It doesn't. Second, since some stations will cut off their analog stations on Feb 17 anyway, it's going to be confusing for a while until the dust settles and we see what is still on and what is off.

Third, and most worrisome is that while there are still going to be some TV stations broadcasting in the 700 Mhz spectrum, the new owners of that RF space really want to start playing with their new toys. As of this writing, AT&T and Verizon have said they will, out of courtesy, hold off on doing anything with it until June 12. Qualcomm has essentially said, "Whatever," and planed to start using their space. However, Congress stepped in and passed a law that essentially keeps them from using their space until June 12, so we dodged a bit of a bullet there. 

Finally, and this is the wild card, are White Space Devices. These devices are going to be operating in the so-called "White Spaces" between TV stations. In a given market, there are only so many TV stations, and the spectrum in between them (where we've been operating our wireless mics) is now up for grabs. There is some good news; these White Space Devices or WSDs, will use a geolocation database to avoid interference with know wireless mic installations (provided you register), and are supposed to sense other devices operating nearby and avoid those frequencies. So far, the "sense and avoid" strategy has failed 50% of the time (or more) under real-world conditions, however. This means you'll really want to register with the database once it gets built. Not timeline on that from our good friends at the FCC (shocking--I know).

There you have it. That's what we know right now. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If it doesn't absolutely need to be wireless, consider going wired. You'll be glad you did. At least until the dust settles. In the meantime, be very careful about your frequency selection, and get out of the 700 Mhz band ASAP.