Wireless mics: What you need to know about the 2012 switch-off

If you use a wireless microphone system of any sort, you’ll probably know that Ofcom, the regulatory body that licenses radio frequencies, is selling off the Channel 69 frequency band.

Here’s the lowdown: in the UK, a certain range of frequencies are available for wireless microphones, instrument transmitters and in-ear monitoring systems -whether these are lavaliers, handheld news gathering systems, live performance mics or just simple wireless guitar transmitters.

Dubbed Channel 69, it covers a range of frequencies from 854MHz to 863MHz. If you’ve bought any non-bespoke system, it will almost certainly be set to this channel. However, the increasing demands for bandwidth for digital TV and mobile data systems has led to these frequencies being sold off. After 2012, these frequencies will no longer be legal for wireless performance systems and wireless systems within this range may no longer work without excessive interference.

From 2012, another band of frequencies will be available for wireless audio. This will be Channel 38, and it ranges from 606-613.99MHz. While this is good news for those who rely on wireless systems, there are two very important things that you need to know – firstly, the majority of wireless systems only operate within one channel range, so you won’t be able to tune a Channel 69 system to frequencies within the Channel 38 range. Secondly, Channel 38 is not free and requires a licence.

The good news

A lot of wireless systems have a tuning range that actually includes frequencies outside the Channel 69 range. Our most popular, Sennheiser’s EW100 systems, actually have a range of 854MHz to 866MHz which means they can be tuned to the first frequencies of  Channel 70. Channel 70 will continue to be available licence-free to wireless audio users. It’s likely that this small frequency band will get very congested but, if you’re just using a single system at close proximity, you’ll probably be able to continue using your existing system.

For those who are looking at purchasing new systems, Channel 38-ready devices are now available from many manufacturers, and Sennheiser’s EW100 G3 mics are now shipping, identified by the letters GB in the model number. An alternative solution to Channel 38 is to look at digital wireless, which uses a whole different part of the spectrum at around 2.4GHz, and is licence-free. Line 6 are already selling instrument and vocal mic systems that use this frequency range, with more to come.

It is also worth noting that some manufacturers are offering modification services where a system can be retuned from Channel 69 to Channel 38, and trade-in schemes for when your system can’t be retuned.

For more information on our range of wireless microphones, give us a call on 03332 400 222 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com. You can also drop us a comment and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Rob H
Rob H
Call us: 03332 409 306