Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Update on Wireless Mics & the 700 Mhz Band

Yesterday I listened in on a webinar sponsored by iLevite and Shure. Chris Lyons of Shure gave a good summary of where we are right now with the digital TV transition and the reallocation of spectrum. There wasn’t a lot of new information, mainly because there haven’t been that many developments, but it was a good seminar nonetheless. Here’s the upshot.

As far as the “White Spaces” goes, the FCC recently released it’s report on field tests. TV Technology has a good summary article on the report. In the testing of the new wireless devices Google, Microsoft and others want to bring to market, it was found that the devices could detect and avoid TV stations and other wireless carriers (ie. mics) about 50% of the time. Doug Lung, author of the TVT article mentioned above, concludes that these White Space Devices (WSDs) are likely to cause interference. Regardless, the FCC seems to be convinced that the WSDs can work. They will issue a ruling on Nov. 5th.

The whole issue with WSDs is a murky one, as no one really knows what it will mean for church sound, schools, theaters, sound companies, etc.. One of the plans of the WSD proponents is to put together a database using geo-location and registered frequencies to avoid interference. This plan has its own problems, of course. The good news, if there is any with WSDs, is that we’ll at least have some real information to act on come Nov. 5th.

The other topic discussed is one we’ve dealt with here before; the 700 Mhz band (698 Mhz-806 Mhz). As previously written about here, the days for us to use the 700 Mhz band for wireless mics are numbered. We’ll know exactly how numbered on Nov. 5th. Shure has been leading the charge of an industry coalition to establish a 24-month transition period for users of wireless mics in the 700 Mhz band. If the FCC agrees to this, we would, in theory, have roughly 2 years (from Feb 17, 2009 or another arbitrary date) to stop using our wireless mics in that band. 

This would be a God-send to the thousands of churches, schools and other venues that are looking at multiple thousands of dollars to replace existing wireless gear. Being able to spread the costs out over a 2 year period would be most helpful. Personally, I doubt we’ll get that much time. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a year. 

Like I said earlier, if you own wireless mics that operate in the 700 Mhz band, start making plans now to replace them. It’s not a matter of “if” but of “when.” The question is today, what do we buy? The answer to that is, “Wait a few more weeks.” Once the FCC issues its ruling, we’ll have more guidance on how to proceed. 

Given this climate of uncertainty in the wireless spectrum, I’m looking at trying to get away from as many wireless mics as possible for Upper Room and CPC. I’m hoping to drop down to 2 wireless IEMs and go Aviom for the rest of the band. Ideally, we’ll only use wireless mics for the pastor and other verbals during the service. I want to keep my vocalists on wired mics. They’re cheaper and sound better to boot.

In the meantime, we have a few days left to comment on the ruling. Shure has an excellent resource with full instructions on how to file a comment. If enough of us get together on this, we might be able to buy some more time to make the switch out of the 700 Mhz band. Follow this link to learn more on making a comment. Hurry–we only have until Monday, Oct. 27 to comment. After that, we get what we get.

Stay tuned for more information. I’m guessing that the FCC’s Nov. 5 ruling will be a topic on the FaithTools “Live from WFX” episode coming up. In the meantime start planning for change–’cause it’s coming!

14 Comments

  1. chris@ilevite.net

    Mike, thanks for the mention of the live meeting with Chris Lyons.

    FYI … we’re planning on having him (and possibly others) on again after the FCC makes their decision(s) (and after WFX).

    If you have any other ideas how we can get the word out to those in ministry, let me know. I’m guessing there are LOTS of people in churches that don’t know anything about this. (as evidenced by some of the comments yesterday)

    Chris Paschen, iLevite

  2. chris@ilevite.net

    Mike, thanks for the mention of the live meeting with Chris Lyons.

    FYI … we’re planning on having him (and possibly others) on again after the FCC makes their decision(s) (and after WFX).

    If you have any other ideas how we can get the word out to those in ministry, let me know. I’m guessing there are LOTS of people in churches that don’t know anything about this. (as evidenced by some of the comments yesterday)

    Chris Paschen, iLevite

  3. chris@ilevite.net

    I forgot to mention, I was able to edit down Chris’ main presentation to 20 min. and I’ve posted the video link (as well as PDF of his spectrum chart) on iLevite under the iLevite Live tab. Just in case people who missed it want to catch it. Chris did a great job of communicating the issues that are involved and what they mean for ministries.

  4. chris@ilevite.net

    I forgot to mention, I was able to edit down Chris’ main presentation to 20 min. and I’ve posted the video link (as well as PDF of his spectrum chart) on iLevite under the iLevite Live tab. Just in case people who missed it want to catch it. Chris did a great job of communicating the issues that are involved and what they mean for ministries.

  5. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I really feel for those churches who (in our present economic woes) have zero budget to invest in new wireless microphones. Part of that reason is that our church is in that boat, we have had to cut our budget by drastic levels. Some ministries have 60% budget cuts. Ouch!

    How do we go about convincing the powers that be that we need new microphones when the children’s ministry is back to using flannel-graphs?

  6. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I really feel for those churches who (in our present economic woes) have zero budget to invest in new wireless microphones. Part of that reason is that our church is in that boat, we have had to cut our budget by drastic levels. Some ministries have 60% budget cuts. Ouch!

    How do we go about convincing the powers that be that we need new microphones when the children’s ministry is back to using flannel-graphs?

  7. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JB,

    Yeah, that’s a tough sell for sure. You can always take the “wait and see” approach and hope that you won’t have much interference with your wireless. And switch back to wired as much as possible. If money is really tight, I would prioritize what you absolutely must have wireless for, and find the money to get a few channels.

    Given the present economic realities, things are going to stay tight for a while. I do think you need to lay out a clear plan to church leadership. Present the facts in an unemotional way, clearly stating, “This is what is happening in the world of wireless, and this is what we need to do about it.” Always give options. Instead of, “If we don’t replace all our wireless now,” try, “If economics prevent us from replacing our wireless mics, we’ll have to go back to using wired mics. Which is fine, just be aware that you’ll be seeing more cords on stage. And we’ll need to cut back on 6-person dramas.”

    That way, you’ve given them the problem and a few proposed solutions. And really, the world’s not ending if we can’t use as much wireless in our services. There’s always another way. In our case, I’m dropping back from 16 channels to no more than 8 (I’m lobbying for 6). IEMs will go from 9 to 2 while we put the band on Avioms.

    Like your church, we are feeling the crunch, too. We’re already 10% down 6 months into our fiscal year, and we’re trying to plant at the same time–a hugely expensive venture. When we do plant, we may have to make do with a lot less gear than we have right now. But you know what? We’ll still have church, and God will still show up. Wireless mics or not!

    Blessings,

    mike

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JB,

    Yeah, that’s a tough sell for sure. You can always take the “wait and see” approach and hope that you won’t have much interference with your wireless. And switch back to wired as much as possible. If money is really tight, I would prioritize what you absolutely must have wireless for, and find the money to get a few channels.

    Given the present economic realities, things are going to stay tight for a while. I do think you need to lay out a clear plan to church leadership. Present the facts in an unemotional way, clearly stating, “This is what is happening in the world of wireless, and this is what we need to do about it.” Always give options. Instead of, “If we don’t replace all our wireless now,” try, “If economics prevent us from replacing our wireless mics, we’ll have to go back to using wired mics. Which is fine, just be aware that you’ll be seeing more cords on stage. And we’ll need to cut back on 6-person dramas.”

    That way, you’ve given them the problem and a few proposed solutions. And really, the world’s not ending if we can’t use as much wireless in our services. There’s always another way. In our case, I’m dropping back from 16 channels to no more than 8 (I’m lobbying for 6). IEMs will go from 9 to 2 while we put the band on Avioms.

    Like your church, we are feeling the crunch, too. We’re already 10% down 6 months into our fiscal year, and we’re trying to plant at the same time–a hugely expensive venture. When we do plant, we may have to make do with a lot less gear than we have right now. But you know what? We’ll still have church, and God will still show up. Wireless mics or not!

    Blessings,

    mike

  9. dlo@derricklogan.com

    Mike –

    Thanks a ton for sharing your insight and knowledge regarding this whole situation. It’s very helpful, informative, and easy to grasp. You rock dood!

    – Derrick

  10. dlo@derricklogan.com

    Mike –

    Thanks a ton for sharing your insight and knowledge regarding this whole situation. It’s very helpful, informative, and easy to grasp. You rock dood!

    – Derrick

  11. jblasongame@gmail.com

    Thanks Mike,

    I think I’ll take the wait and see approach for the moment. But either way the powers that be won’t consider this high on their priority list. We may not even have enough money to afford a single channel for the pastor.

  12. jblasongame@gmail.com

    Thanks Mike,

    I think I’ll take the wait and see approach for the moment. But either way the powers that be won’t consider this high on their priority list. We may not even have enough money to afford a single channel for the pastor.

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JB

    We’ll know more in a week what the future holds. Either way, I would at least make them aware of what’s coming. That way, there aren’t any big surprises when the pastor’s mic starts acting up during a message. At that point, a single channel for the pastor will become a BIG priority, believe me. \

    What you don’t want to hear is, “Why didn’t you tell us this might happen?” Rather, you want to be in a position to say, “Remember that conversation we had in November? This is why I suggested we start planning for a changeover.” That way, it’s not your fault.

    Not playing CYA, because ultimately, the financial decisions rest in those in authority over you. I’ve been there, and understand your position. As long as you make them aware of what’s coming down the pike, what the possible problems, and present a solution and associated costs, you’ve done your part. Then you can sleep at night knowing the decision is out of your hands.

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    JB

    We’ll know more in a week what the future holds. Either way, I would at least make them aware of what’s coming. That way, there aren’t any big surprises when the pastor’s mic starts acting up during a message. At that point, a single channel for the pastor will become a BIG priority, believe me. \

    What you don’t want to hear is, “Why didn’t you tell us this might happen?” Rather, you want to be in a position to say, “Remember that conversation we had in November? This is why I suggested we start planning for a changeover.” That way, it’s not your fault.

    Not playing CYA, because ultimately, the financial decisions rest in those in authority over you. I’ve been there, and understand your position. As long as you make them aware of what’s coming down the pike, what the possible problems, and present a solution and associated costs, you’ve done your part. Then you can sleep at night knowing the decision is out of your hands.

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