Is this thing on?

Maybe not, if you're on the wrong frequency

By Robin Cornetet

Published: April 1, 2019

It's a warning that deserves repeating. Churches that are still using wireless microphones in the 600 MHz range on July 13, 2020, will be breaking federal law.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Media Services Director Larry Brannin said time is running out for churches to obtain new equipment compliant with the Federal Communications Commission.

"The consequences of not adhering to FCC law could mean fines and criminal charges," Brannin said.

Churches are not the only ones faced with overhauling wireless systems. Any wireless microphone, whether handheld or body-worn, used at schools, theaters, conventions, corporate events and sporting events are subject to the same requirement. In addition to microphones, other wireless equipment, such as in-ear monitors, remote lighting and mixing, and intercom systems will also be affected. 

So why are church wireless systems being bumped off the 600 MHz, or more specifically the 617-652 MHz and 663-698 MHz frequencies? In a word, cell phones. Add in the numerous tablets, digital TV signals, baby monitors and Bluetooth devices, it's easy to see how the once wide-open spectrum of radio frequencies is quickly becoming crowded by these modern day, technological conveniences.

Brannin said some churches may already be experiencing interference in their area. Wireless communication companies are beginning to use the frequencies they purchased when the FCC began auctioning off 600 MHz channels to the highest bidder more than two years ago.

T-Mobile spent nearly $8 million in April 2017 to purchase 45 percent of all low-band frequencies sold in the 600 MHz FCC spectrum auction. The company has started using its purchase to increase coverage and build a foundation for its 5G network, which relies on both very high and very low wireless frequencies.

Other spectrum purchasers include Dish and Comcast.

"If churches continue to use the frequencies in the 600 MHz range, they may wake to discover one Sunday morning that all they hear is interference," Brannin said.

The good news is that when replacing wireless systems, new equipment is required to have full disclosures on the operating frequency ranges used by devices. Experts say churches only needing a couple of wireless channels can run systems from 902 MHz- 928 MHz, or 2.4 GHz. Another option is the 470 to 608 MHz range.

Still confused? Kentucky Baptist churches can email larry.brannin@kybaptist.org and schedule a consultation about this or any A/V concerns.