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.
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If you like what David has to say on this topic, he will also be a speaker discussing the subject of team development at WFX in October. Click here for more info.
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.
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.
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