Relief over radio mic spectrum

A lot of people involved in live entertainment and events were probably raising a glass or two to Ofcom last night after the regulator announced new proposals for the radio frequencies used by wireless microphones.This has all got to do with the so-called digital dividend, which is what will happen when all the analogue signals get switched off in favour of digital (a process which will happen gradually over the next five years or so).

A lot of people involved in live entertainment and events were probably raising a glass or two to Ofcom last night after the regulator announced new proposals for the radio frequencies used by wireless microphones.

This has all got to do with the so-called digital dividend, which is what will happen when all the analogue signals get switched off in favour of digital (a process which will happen gradually over the next five years or so). That switchover means a whole lot of spectrum will go up for auction, a process that generally favours the rich. There had, understandably, been general dismay within the stage/concert/church/event industries over the idea that the frequencies used for wireless mics would end up going to the highest bidder - and quite possibly used for something else.

What's wrong with using a digital wireless signal, you might say. Well, in a word: latency. A stage production like Lord Of The Rings or whatever would be well and truly stuffed if it wasn't co-ordinated to a split-split-second degree, and you can only do that reliably with analogue.

Funnily enough, the responses that Ofcom received in its initial consultation over the issue tended towards the "are you mad?" variety. So the new options look a bit like this: a) the spectrum could still go up for auction, but bidders would have to keep using it for what it's currently used for, know what they're doing and make it available to those who need it; or b) Ofcom chooses, through a "beauty contest", some organisation to manage the spectrum. Either way, charities, religious organisations and community groups get guaranteed access, and everyone else gets as fair a shot as they do now.

All together now: Phew. Now all that remains is for the final plan to take shape - something that will happen after the consultation on these new proposals shuts at the end of August. Those with something to add know who to call.

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