TapDigital Double Cross

Three years ago, back at the start of 2007, I wrote about the Digital Dividend and the impact on the use of radio microphones. The conclusion then was that there was no planned effect on the unregulated channel 70 and that they were proposing that the currently licensed channel 69 would also become deregulated. Well they had their review and after public consultation changed their minds a little and proposed to leave channel 69 as it was, a licensed band (see para. 1.43). OK.

But it seems that they have now discussed it in Europe and collectively they have decided to clear the 800MHz completely—including channel 69. The detail of the proposal is that users of channel 69 are to be moved to channel 38. This will have an enormous impact on the entertainment industry and other users of radio microphones, talkback and instrumentation systems (collectively known as PMSE). That includes a proportion of churches that use licensed bands. Most of them will be using the unregulated channel 70 and that is not going to change but where there are interference problems or more than four frequencies are required then they will be using channel 69 and this will make a difference. It is estimated that one in eight will be affected. Effectively, most of the old gear will have to be thrown away and new stuff purchased because the frequency change from 854 to 606MHz is too great to allow simple re-tuning in most equipment. Mine can only be internally changed (at some cost) down to 690MHz channel 48. The situation is so serious that the Church of England has joined the campaign group Save our Sound to lobby government to change their minds or compensate users.

On top of that, channel 38 was previously used by radio astronomers and it is not certain that they are clear of it yet. Certainly its use for radio microphones is regionally limited and is not available in the North-West of England until 2012. There are other channel moves proposed but they will affect the larger commercial organisations rather than smaller operations such as churches.

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