Verizon, AT&T and the FCC's 700MHz Wireless Ban: How It Affects You

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The Federal Communications Commission voted Friday to ban the distribution and sale of wireless devices that operate in the 700 MHz frequency. The action, an expected move and the latest step in the country's transition to digital television (DTV), clears the 700 MHz band for the next generation of 4G consumer wireless devices from carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, and for communications services for public safety agencies.

How does the 700 MHz ban impact you? Here's a quick primer:

Which devices are banned?

The order impacts the use of wireless microphones that operate in the 700 MHz band. These mics were originally designed to use frequencies in between those used by television stations (channels 52-69) to broadcast TV shows. But after last year's DTV switch, TV broadcasters no longer use the frequencies between 698 and 806 MHz (the 700 MHz band).

Wireless mics that operate in this band can interfere with public safety (e.g., police and fire) and wireless consumer services. The ban begins on June 12, 2010. You can continue to use wireless mics that work on other frequencies, however. Corded mics aren't affected by the FCC order.

Who uses 700 MHz wireless mics?

They're frequently used in theatrical productions, sporting events, and church services. Obviously, a lot of expensive hardware is going to have to be replaced. In some markets, people may have to stop using their wireless mics before the June 12 deadline. How will you know if your hardware is affected? The FCC website has a lengthy list of wireless devices that must go bye-bye.

If I buy a wireless mic today, will it work after June 12?

Today's FCC order prohibits the sale, manufacture, or import of wireless microphones that use the 700 MHz band. Theoretically, wireless mics available from now on in the U.S. should operate in other frequency bands, such as channels 2-51.

My wireless mic is now getting static. What's wrong?

If you've recently started getting a lot of interference, there's a good chance that you're disrupting a public safety or wireless broadband provider. If that's the case, you must stop using your wireless mic immediately. Failure to comply with FCC rules may lead to penalties, although it's unclear at this point what those may entail.

What do I do with my old gear?

Recycling is always nice. Or you could always have your mic bronzed. For recycling tips and a detailed FAQ on the wireless mic ban, visit the FCC site.

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