Be Prepared for the Wireless Mics Changeover

Let’s take a look into the near future – it’s Jan 2, 2015, you’ve just come back to the club to present your first class for the New Year, your regulars are all there, everything’s the same as it was back in 2014 – then you turn on the sound system and the beltpackfor the Aeromicand what comes out of the speakers is this strange whooshing sound of digital noise pulsing like you are tuning in to deep space! Why is this so?

Since 2000 and the start of digital radio testing in Sydney and Melbourne and the subsequent move to the UHF band, your wireless mic suppliers have been providing all the Health Clubs around Australia with UHF systems in the 695 to 820MHz band. Our brand, Fitness Audio, supplied systems in the 800-820MHz group for the 10 years up to the end of 2010. We have many customers with these 800 group systems that are still working well as you read this in 2014. However, the Government auctioned off this lump of spectrum, called the 700 Band, to the highest bidders between the 3 major Telcos in Australia in April 2013. The growth of Tablets, Smart Phones, Cloud Computing, Credit Card and EFTPOS Terminals means they are all using wire-less ways to connect. The predicted growth for all these devices is a compounding 75% a year! So the Government has to sell off the spectrum, not only to raise money but also to allow the mobile networks of data processing to grow and communicate at reasonable upload and download speeds.

The Government has told the Telcos that the 700 band will be free of all users by the 31st of December 2014. The successful bidder will spend 2014 building their systems and will commence using them from Jan 1, 2015. So in the plainest of language – IT WILL BE ILLEGAL to continue to use your 700 or 800 group wireless systems from Jan 1, 2015. In fact, Optus recently announced they were testing in Darwin and Perth their new 4G system in the 700MHz spectrum that they purchased last year. However, there won’t be any vans going around your neighborhood with listening devices on board looking for “rogue” users. The Telcos have paid a load of money for the right to use this spectrum so if they do receive any complaints of interference from your mic systems, then you can bet you will get a visit from a technical representative and one warning to stop transmitting immediately – there won’t be any second chances – they’ll just sue the club!

At the end of 2013 all analog TV broadcasting ceased and now our TVs only receive FTA programs by digital transmission. Earlier in 2014, the Digital TV stations broadcasting in the 700 band moved down to the 600 band in an exercise called DTV restacking. All wireless microphone users will have to share the same space, however, you can only use frequencies indoors where TV is not in conflict, otherwise you will receive lots of digital noise through the sound system and may cause interference to TVs tuned into the same channel as your mic system uses.

So who is paying for the changeover?

Well, in a nutshell, the wireless mic users are. All users are expected to change their systems over as a result of these changes in the law. Fitness Audio are offering a $50.00 +$15.00 freight allowance trade-in rebate for any club switching their 800MHz systems over to our new Fitness Audio U-630 Series products. This is in addition to the price negotiated for replacement systems and extra transmitters from any of our dealers.

Life wasn’t meant to be easy but at Fitness Audio we are managing the changeover as accurately as we can for our dealers and end user customers now that we know what’s happening. When I look at the major TV areas around the country I can see some trouble spots that will mean we will have to take on extra stock on additional frequencies, including a return to VHF for some areas. Take the Gold Coast for example, it has 4 TV areas serving it; Gold Coast with 9 stations transmitting, Canungra with 6 relay stations, Brisbane South East with 6 relay stations and the Gold Cast Southern Hinterland with a relay of 9 stations again. What all this means is that, unless you are geographically very lucky, there is not any free white space to operate any UHF Wireless Mic Systems. It’s a similar story in the Sunshine Coast TV region. If this turns out to be the case, then we may well return to stocking our VHF single channel systems that worked so well for us back in the 90’s and are still the mainstay of our wireless mic business in the USA and the UK.

The point of all this is to let you know that you have to get familiar with what you are using in wireless mic frequencies, and if it is an 800 system then plan to change it in this financial year’s capital expenditure budget. We will be guiding all of our customers to the right solutions for their TV region as we understand it and we will stock systems in two of the frequency groups that have white space available in 2014. There may be other options coming along after the changeover but we won’t know if they are viable until it all happens in 2015 and they test OK. I’ll keep you updated through this blog and email newsletters but please make the change over sooner rather than at the last minute. Until then – just don’t bend the yellow bit!

Click here to view the range of Fitness Microphones & Fitness Audio wireless mic systems⁣⁣⁣⁣