|OFCOM - Radio Spectrum Sell-off|
|The VHF Summary||The UHF Summary||Check by Postcode||What can I do?||Current frequency informaton||Where to find more information||BEIRG||What the press are saying||Comment from Andy Lenthal - PSA|
The Story so Far:
2007 The use of radio mics in UK is under threat because the government's regulator OFCOM is reviewing use of the radio spectrum and has identified some sections which could be auctioned off. This will squeeze out some users of radio mics.
The crux of the problem is this: radio mic users are a disparate and diverse community of professionals who simply cannot compete in an auction against IT and communications giants such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Vodafone, Microsoft, etc.
No other European country has gone down this route of spectrum pricing and many are watching UK to see if we make a mess if it which they can capitalise on and avoid themselves.
In 2012, Ofcom re-allocated some of the radio mic spectrum. If you currently use radio mics or in-ear monitors you must check this out! In summary:
OFCOM's latest PMSE proposals:
August 2010: Ofcom
announce details of Channel 69 replacement funding.
May 2010: Channel 38 is now available for shared use of wireless microphones and personal monitors, subject to specific geographic restrictions. New UHF UK Wireless Microphone Licences issued on and after 4 January 2010 include access to Channel 38 as well as the usual Channel 69 frequencies.
Terms of access for Channel 38 differ from Channel 69 in that the licence does not state specific frequencies; instead a frequency range is given. In addition, Ofcom recognise that Channel 38 will not be fully available throughout the UK until 2012 and so have also included temporary access to Channels 39 and 40 in those areas where it is not. Licensees are required to use JFMG's ‘Ch38 look-up tool’ available via the link on our homepage to check exactly what can be used at their location prior to operation.
The addition of Channels 38, 39 and 40 to the existing UHF UK Wireless Microphone Licence does not affect the cost of the licence.
Quick guide to the new channels: See the full spectrum ch 21 - 68 layout below
July 2008 Overview of Ofcom's proposals for appointing a band manager who will control 75 distinct bands between 47.55 MHz and 48.4 GHz, define and allocate user bands, issue licences to end-users.
A healthy response to consultations past has resulted in guaranteeing at least some access in the medium term; this latest consultation will require a similar level of attention and interest from all users. You are encouraged to read and comment. The consultation closes on 16 October 2008 so please do it as soon as possible.
January 2008. PDF Overview of Ofcom's proposals for Digital TV and PMSE
13 December 2007.
pertinent paragraphs from OFCOM's latest PMSE proposal:
…The exception to our market led approach is for PMSE, which already uses interleaved spectrum on a large scale. This is an extremely diverse community, and we do not think it would be able to take part effectively in an auction, creating a serious risk of market failure. We will therefore hold a beauty contest to award a package of interleaved spectrum to meet PMSE users’ needs.”
We have decided to reserve most of the available interleaved spectrum to meet the needs of PMSE users. We will award a single package of interleaved spectrum to a licensee that will act as a band manager. To help PMSE users with the transition to market mechanisms, we will use criteria designed to ensure that the band manager’s interests are aligned with those of PMSE users. The band manager will pay a charge for the spectrum based on Administered Incentive Pricing (AIP) and will be able to earn revenue by charging its customers for access. But regulation will ensure that it has to meet reasonable demand from PMSE users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. So long as these obligations are met, the band manager will be able to allow others to make use of its spectrum.
We have decided that channel 69 should continue to be available for PMSE use throughout the UK on a licensed basis. We will also promote greater licence exempt use of channel 70 for PMSE, in the interests of community users.
These decisions close the separate PMSE consultation that we launched in June 2007. Shortly, we will also publish detailed information on the availability of interleaved spectrum for PMSE after DSO.
June 2007. Thanks to the 9574 people and organisations who signed Jamie Robinson's e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/list/closed?cat=616 which closed on 19 June 2007. The PM has not yet responded.
Ofcom has published a consultation on future spectrum access for PMSE. This addresses some of the responses received to its recent Digital Dividend Review (DDR), and also raises some more general issues regarding management of the PMSE spectrum including that outside the TV broadcasting bands.
May 2007. Ofcom published a summary of consultation responses to its Digital Dividend Review (DDR). It includes a review of the many submissions by PMSE users and is required reading for anyone interested in the future of PMSE spectrum.
April 2007. Ofcom consultation period closed on 20th March. There were many responses, which can be found on the Ofcom web site. However, if you haven't already contributed, please write anyway and express your concerns about how the changes will affect your business/performance. See contact details below.
An Adjournment Debate on the impact of the Ofcom DDR proposals upon PMSE took place in the House of Commons on 6th March. An account of the debate can be downloaded here I note that Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire - Con) made some very well observed points in this debate regarding the impact on broadcast news teams, sports reporting and film production and many other unseen areas beyond the entertainment sector.
March 2007. Ofcom are claiming that the consultation is ongoing, however, they seem to have made up their minds already as you can see form this recent statement: "Ofcom believes that the market forces are better at determining which service should get access to spectrum".
Ofcom also has no idea how our technology works. They think that radio mics can be squeezed into a corner and made to share the spectrum with other unspecified users. "The released frequencies will be offered in packages that are suitable for as many uses as possible". Anyone who has used multiple radio mic set ups will know exactly how temperamental and unpredictable radio mic performance can be. How important it is to use optimum frequency spacing, perfect positioning of equipment and have access to spectrum which is clear of other devices.
"we will ensure that spectrum is available for PMSE for a transitional period, at least until after the 2012 Olympics". This clearly tells us that after the transitional period it will be impossible to provide the same high standards of production and safety required for large scale events.
January 2007. The first firm proposal from OFCOM is to tidy up the high band VHF channels. The range 211 - 217MHz is to be cleared. Existing radio mic and PMSE on frequencies 211.91875 - 212.19375, 215.26875 - 215.49375, 216.100, 216.300, 216.600, 216.800, 217.000 will be re-allocated to 209.200, 209.400, 209.600, 209.800 and 210.000MHz (see diagram below). There are presently no proposals for the low band VHF frequencies, including the 5 de-regulated frequencies (173.800 - 175.000) and site licenced channels (176.400 - 208.100)
OFCOM's proposals for re-allocating the UHF band appear to concentrate on channel 69 (854 - 862MHz) which accounts for most of the licenced frequencies available on kits currently on the market. At the moment they seem to be avoiding the 4 de-regulated frequencies which may be of some consolation to smaller set ups such as schools and churches, although if additional uses are allowed for this band then interference and unreliability will become a serious issue. (See updated diagram below - Feb'08)
13 December 2007 - email from Andy Lenthall at
Production Services Association (PSA)
"Ofcom’s decisions, outlined in today’s proposal, could have a profound effect on our sector by dictating arrangements for future access to the spectrum we currently use for radio microphones and in ear monitors referred to as Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE). A huge lobbying effort by representative bodies from across the entertainment sector was put together to convince Ofcom that our use was essential and their proposals to simply auction access to the highest bidder would be a disaster. A few paragraphs from their statement suggest that the efforts have paid off although, as ever, there is still work to be done.
So, congratulations so far to all involved and all those members that helped by responding to the various consultations and petitions – it’s what these trade bodies are all about.
Clearly questions need to be asked about what Ofcom believes to be ‘reasonable demand’ as well as the suitability of channel 70 for unlicensed ‘community’ use.
This statement follows an earlier one that gives temporary access to channels 63 to 68 until new owners require access. Ofcom has said that this is likely to be until early 2009, possibly longer, with a notice period of 6 months.
Ofcom are now busy calculating the amount of ‘digital interleaved’ spectrum that will actual be available but on thing is almost certain, channel 69 will be the only nationally available channel. The next best thing we can hope for is a nationally available group of concurrent channels so that single transmitters only need to tune across a narrow range (keeping costs down!).
For those who own equipment now, it’s worth making plans for early ’09 and beyond. We’ll have news of just where we’re expected to go as soon as its released.
We’re hoping that Ofcom will be holding some kind of ‘Stakeholder Events’ in early 2008 – perhaps just in time for the PSA Conference.
Meanwhile, the full statement can be read at http://www.ofcom.org.uk
All the best, Andy Lenthall
current UK frequency allocations
Check your local availability by postcode
download a PDF copy of the slides from JFMG's recent DDR Forum
British Entertainment Industry Radio Group
OFCOM UK telecommunications regulator
Sennheiser user forum - UK Spectrum Debate
What can we do to stop
Nothing. The major decisions have now taken place, following some consultation and lobbying from our industry, which basically means that we keep channel 70 (free) and we have to migrate to channel 38 for most of the country, with a few exceptions.
1. Please copy this page to every radio mic user you know.
2. Write or email your MP to ask him/her to sign MP Andrew Mackinlay's Early Day Motion 531 calling for special dispensation for our industry.
3. Write to OFCOM to voice your concerns about how our industry will be affected. Although the official consulting stage has now closed you can still write and voice your concerns. Please address your response to: Paula Guest, Ofcom, Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 9HA. Please enclose a consultation coversheet with your response.
Or contribute via an on-line form at
Please contact us to discuss the latest position if you are planning to purchase new wireless systems. top
You are also urged to join BEIRG today at www.beirg.org.uk and join a growing, concerned membership that currently includes:
A call-to-arms for all UK
radio mic users
by John Steven (Marketing Director), Sennheiser UK
The live entertainment industry in the UK is about to be threatened by an initiative by OFCOM that could send us all back to the 'dark ages'... unless we act in unison to prevent it. This issue, one that has so far been largely ignored by our industry, is potentially so damaging that Total Production International magazine will be dedicating its main feature to the subject in its November 2006 issue, in order to raise maximum awareness before it's too late.
OFCOM, in its infinite wisdom, is planning to sell off the radio frequencies which are currently used by the entertainment industry. Without strong opposition, it is likely that parties such as cash-rich mobile phone service providers will outbid the live industry to obtain this frequency spectrum. The consequence of this will be that the wireless microphones, in-ear monitoring, instrument systems and radio communications that have become crucial to the quality and sophistication of modern-day concerts, festivals, theatre shows and sporting events will no longer be able to be operated legally. Can you imagine the chaos this will cause to an industry that currently turns over almost £15 billion annually in the UK? We must act to let the regulator know of the potentially calamitous effects any wrong decisions will have on the entire community.
In association with BEIRG (the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group; an independent and non-profit making association, working for the benefit of all those who use radio spectrum), TPi will be presenting the facts and drumming up support from across the UK live industry in a bid to prevent this madness from becoming a reality.
What we want from you in the first instance is your reaction (by e-mail) to the risks that might be caused to YOUR productions, YOUR business and YOUR livelihood by a sudden absence of wireless technology. Tell us what you think and make your voice heard!
Current VHF Band III re-allocation proposals >
Current UHF Band re-allocation proposals >
check your local availability by postcode
So far the issue has received coverage in the specialist pro-audio press (Audio-Media, LSI, Total Production, etc) as well as national media:
Dry Hire /
System Hire /
Reference Library /
JFMG UK radio mic licensing and radio frequency information.
BEIRG UK radio mic users campaign group
OFCOM UK telecommunications regulator
Sennheiser user forum - UK Spectrum Debate