This fall, the FCC removed geographic restrictions on white space devices, which operate in the unused spectrum between TV stations. While this move will expand broadband access for many users, it increases the potential for interference on wireless microphones, in-ear monitors (IEM) and wireless intercoms.
To help prevent interference to audio systems at churches and theaters from these new white space devices, the FCC has taken several measures, including setting aside dedicated channels that can be used by wireless microphones. They have also established a public database system that allows churches and theaters to reserve unused TV channels for their wireless mics, preventing the new white space devices from operating in those same TV channels.
Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) has taken an active role in the implementation of this new registration system by participating in a private beta test and giving feedback to the FCC about their new registration website. Through this process, PWS has developed a few best practices to get houses of worship up and running.
Ultimately, by removing geographic restrictions, the FCC will help maximize the value of white space for consumers and businesses. While this may not happen overnight, it won’t be long before technologies with expanded access to this type of spectrum hit the market. They are likely to make as big a splash as 4G LTE or Wi-Fi has over the past few years.
Dubbed “Super Wi-Fi” by some professionals, white space devices are initially expected to connect houses and buildings that don’t have access to cable or DSL connections. Eventually this technology will make its way into portable devices like cell phones and tablets. The white space database registration system will become important to houses of worship by ensuring that TV white space devices don’t interfere with the unlicensed wireless microphones, IEM’s and intercom systems in use at these venues.
Apply for FCC Permission
Before you can reserve white space TV channels for use at your venue, you have to apply for permission from the FCC.
The first step is to understand how to complete the registration. For those without a technical background—or even with a limited technical background—this can be confusing. The second step is to register for channel protection with a white space database provider via the Web.
You’ll want to complete the registration to the best of your ability, as any re-submissions may delay the time before you can actually turn on your channel reservation and thus receive protection.
Before you get started, you’ll need to gather some basic information, including:
• An FCC registration account Number (FRN) If you do not have an existing account, go to fcc.gov/uls and click “New User”.
• Your exact location in Latitude and Longitude (degrees, minutes, seconds format)
To do this, start by looking up your address in Bing Maps at http://www.bing.com/maps/. Your latitude/longitude will be displayed just under your address on the left side of the page.
Convert this format from decimal degrees to dms format using the FCC’s tool at http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/ audio/bickel/DDDMMSS-decimal.html
• The local “free” TV channels and available TV channels
Start at whitespaces.spectrumbridge.com/whitespaces and use the lat/long that you converted previously. Be sure to choose the “Wireless Microphone” option before you start the search.
While you’re here, zoom in on the map and make sure that you have the correct location. Your location cannot be changed later, so this is a good time to make sure it’s correct before continuing—you need to be within 400 meters (about 1300 feet).
• Which TV stations your wireless mics currently fall within.
PWS has a chart here: www.professionalwireless.com/tv-channels
• Your schedule for reoccurring wireless microphone use (up to one year)
You can make minor changes to the schedule at any time, so if you need to adjust the hours for your services, it’s not a problem. Major changes to your schedule however, need a new approval number which means going through the FCC’s permission process (and 30 day waiting period) again.
Consider submitting your non-reoccurring special events such as pageants, holidays and special services at this time since you have all the information needed in one place.
File Your Request to Register
Once this information is compiled, you’re ready to file a Request to Register Unlicensed Wireless Microphones through the FCC’s universal licensing system website at fcc.gov/uls. Once you log in to the ULS system with your FRN and password, you will find a link to it on the left menu inside the ULS system. If you don’t see the option for Unlicensed Microphone Registration yet, don’t worry. At the time of publication, the FCC is still putting the final polish on the site.
Before registering white space channels, you must fi rst certify to the FCC that you are using all “practicably available” free and available channels fi rst. This means that you need to be using six to eight wireless microphones inside each TV channel in your area.
Looking at the list from the WSDB provider (see sidebar), you’ll see two “exclusive” TV channels. One of these will be above TV channel 37 and the other one will be below. You’re supposed to use these two channels whenever possible (the actual channels vary based on your location).
Next you’ll see “available” TV channels listed, in which you’re supposed to use all of these with six to eight wire-less mics in each before you ask for “white space” channels. The problem here is that VHF channels are included in the list and professional-grade wireless mics haven’t been made in the VHF bands for more than 10 years now. This means that you will need to explain to the FCC that you’ve used all of the channels practicably available by attaching a short text file to your application.
Another consideration is the use of wireless intercom systems. These systems generally have two transmit frequencies below channel 37, and four receive frequencies above channel 37. This does not meet the FCC’s minimum of six to eight frequencies in each available or reserved TV channels, so you will need to explain to the FCC that the equipment has a “duplex gap” that forces you to use two different TV channels in order to operate the intercom system. Again, this is done by including a short text file with the application.
Keep in mind that the FCC’s Web-based form will prompt you when it finds most obvious errors, however there are a few advanced options where it won’t, such as specifying multiple sets of location coordinates. In these situations, making a mistake in the order of the coordinates process.
Once you submit the application to the FCC, it will be listed on the FCC website for seven days to provide an opportunity for public comment or objections. This is the time that anyone in the vicinity can object o your request. You’ll want to check back on the website around day eight to see if you need to reply to any comments (you won’t get any reminders or notices about this step). You will then have only seven days to make any replies. The rest of the 30 days is used by the FCC to review your application and let you know if you’re approved or not. If you put an e-mail address on your application, you’ll get a single e-mail at the end of the 30 days with an approval number (or a notice that your application was denied).
Even though you will have clearance throughout the year-long period to utilize the designated channels at the allotted time slots, if another event arises you may need to go through the FCC’s permission process again. What’s more, at the end of the year your request will not be automatically renewed. You’ll need to plan ahead and go through the same process to register unlicensed devices for the following year, keeping in mind the 30 day approval process so you don’t have a gap in coverage.
This new registration process can be overwhelming, especially in its kickoff year. The better prepared your team and organization is, the more likely it is that the application process will be smooth. We have found that the initial registration process takes about 30 minutes once you have gathered all the basic info. Re-registering can be done in about 10 minutes after you’ve learned the process. For more detailed information, please visit our website, www.professionalwireless.com.
Jason Eskew has been a wireless specialist with Professional Wireless Systems since 1996. He is the author of the Intermodulation Analysis System frequency coordination software and supports nationally-recognized productions such as the Super Bowl Half-Time show, Republican National Convention and both college and professional football games.