Wireless Microphone Systems: Look to Digital; Don’t Wait Until 2020

Understanding the wireless spectrum will help you navigate where your new digital units will sit in the new wireless spectrum.

Wireless Microphone Systems: Look to Digital; Don’t Wait Until 2020
As this trio of musicians use a wireless microphone systems during a worship service, churches have to account for the changes being implemented to the wireless systems over the next three years as a result of the FCC auction involving the 600 MHz band.

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Wireless Microphone Systems: Look to Digital; Don’t Wait Until 2020

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Leuschner WFX 2017

David was a speaker at WFX this year in Dallas. For 2018, the conference is slated for Orlando in November. We hope to see you there.

Here we go again! When the FCC announced the sale of the 600 MHz band, it caused a lot of churches to rethink how they were going to approach wireless going forward. Losing an entire band would be devastating, right?

Well, from a technical stand point, it’s not as bad as you think. 

In terms of budget, digital units are going to run 10 to 20 percent higher than analog units. That’s just a fact.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. There is still a lot of wireless spectrum available. If you include VHF, you have TV channels 2-36 available to you. But for strictly UHF users, you really only have TV channels 14 (475 MHz) to 36 (607 MHz).

Keep in mind some of these channels are reserved for emergency services. Please see the diagram slide to understand what is reserved in your area.

Now if you start thinking digital wireless, you not only have 475 MHz to 607 MHz available to you, but you also have the 900 MHz band.

Most countries do not allow wireless microphones to transmit in the 900 MHz band, but the U.S. does allow it. The downside, though, is this band is shared with other consumer devices. An upside is it does have greater penetration through obstacles and can diffract around and over obstacles like buildings or trees, compared to higher unlicensed ranges like 2.4 GHz. However, there is limited amount of bandwidth in the spectrum, making it impractical for professional users who need to get many channels of wireless on the air.

Speaking of 2.4 GHz, this band is available on an unlicensed basis throughout much of the world. It offers a wider frequency range than the 900 MHz band, but systems may experience more interference from other wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

In order for wireless microphones to be successful at 2.4 GHz, they need to be “smart,” or able to change frequencies on the fly to avoid interference. Devices using 2.4 GHz work in a larger frequency band and can potentially offer more channels and greater potential density than lower frequency devices. Shorter wavelengths make line-of-sight setup between transmitters and receivers important for the most reliable operation. 

2. You get better spectrum efficiency - Not all digital wireless systems offer this, but the major manufactures like Shure and Sennheiser do. Essentially they can modulate your system in a manner that allows for much higher channel counts in the reduced wireless spectrum. This is because digital wireless signals are more predictable than analog signals, allowing for tighter channel to channel frequency spacing. As a result, digital systems can deliver nearly twice the channel count in the same part of the wireless spectrum as analog systems.


More About David Leuschner
David Leuschner currently serves as the Executive Director of Digital Great Commission Ministries, a nonprofit that has a mission to utilize technology to reach the entire world for Jesus Christ. David has been in the tech industry for more than 20 years and has always had a passion for the church. From 2006 to 2017 he served on the Senior Team as the Senior Director of Technology and Technical Arts at Gateway Church. He provided oversight for all of the Technology and Live Production areas. Gateway Church is located in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and is one of the largest churches in America. While at Gateway, David guided and directed more than 700 volunteers, part-time and full-time staff in a mission to facilitate several hundred events a month among all venues. Before coming to work at Gateway Church, David started volunteering in a local Church at the age of 11. He progressed to working high level events that included working with President George H W Bush, U.S. Diplomat Alan Lee Keyes, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, ABC News, Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys and many other major artists. David has been married to his beautiful wife Nicole for 12 years and they love their 10-year-old son Justin. Visit www.audiovideolighting.com to find out how David Leuschner can help your church. You can also follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @davidleuschner
Get in Touch: information@digitalgreatcommission.org    More by David Leuschner

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, September-October 2017
The September-October 2017 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers a glance at a Granger Community Church, and their recent install of a Lawo audio mixing console system.


Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Budgeting · Bandwith · Channels · Digital Wireless Systems · FCC · Frequencies · Sennheiser · All Topics

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