Are you prepared for the
wireless mics changeover?
The wavelength your Group Ex microphones use is set to change in the near future. John Penhallow looks at how the government’s Digital Dividend will affect class instruction at your club and what you need to do to avoid disruption.
Let’s take a quick look into the near future… It’s 2 January 2015 and you’ve just returned to the club to present your first class for the New Year. Your regulars are all there, everything’s the same as it was back in 2014, then you turn on the sound system and the beltpack for the Aeromic and are greeted with a strange whooshing sound of digital noise pulsing like you are tuning in to deep space! Why has this happened?
Since 2000 and the start of digital radio testing in Sydney and Melbourne, and the subsequent move to the UHF band, your wireless mic suppliers have been providing all the health clubs around Australia with UHF systems in the 695 to 820MHz band. The Fitness Audio brand supplied systems in the 800-820MHz group for the 10 years up to the end of 2010. Many customers with these 800 group systems are still happily using this equipment today. However, later this year, as part of its Digital Dividend initiative, the government is auctioning off this lump of spectrum, called the 700 Band, to the highest bidding of the three major Telcos in Australia. The growth of tablets, smart phones, cloud computing, and credit card and EFTPOS terminals has hugely increased the demand for wireless connectivity. The predicted growth for all these devices is a compounding 75 per cent a year! So, the government has to sell off the spectrum, not only to raise money, but also to allow the mobile networks of data processing to grow and communicate at reasonable upload and download speeds.
The government has told the Telcos that the 700 band will be free of all users by 31 December 2014. The successful bidder will spend 2014 building their systems and will commence using them from 1 January 2015. So, to put it simply, it will be illegal to continue to use your 700 or 800 group wireless systems from 1 January 2015. However, there won’t be any vans going around your neighbourhood with listening devices searching for ‘rogue’ users. However, the bid-winning Telco will have paid a shedload of money for the right to use this spectrum, so if they do receive any complaints of interference from the mic systems at your club, then you can bet you’ll get a visit from a technical representative and one warning to stop transmitting immediately: there won’t be any second chances, they’ll just sue your club!
As you are probably well aware, at the end of this year all analog TV broadcasting will cease in Australia, and televisions will only receive free-to-air programs by digital transmission. In 2014, the digital TV stations broadcasting in the 700 band will move down to the 600 band, where the analog transmissions were: this will be called DTV restacking. All wireless microphone users will have to share the same space, but you can only use frequencies where TV is not in conflict, otherwise you will receive lots of digital noise through the sound system and may also cause interference to TVs tuned into the same channel as your mic system.
Who pays for the changeover?
All users are expected to change their product as a result of changes in the law. So, in a nutshell, club owners will be paying for the changeover (Aerobic Microphones is offering a $50.00 +$15.00 freight allowance trade-in rebate for any club switching their Fitness Audio systems over from the 800 to the 630 group.)
Life wasn’t meant to be easy, but Aerobic Microphones is determined to manage the changeover as accurately as possible for dealers and end user customers. When I look at the major TV areas around the country, I can see some ‘trouble spots’ that will require us to take on extra stock on additional frequencies, including a return to VHF for some areas. The Gold Coast, for example, has four TV areas serving it: Gold Coast with nine stations transmitting; Canungra with six relay stations; Brisbane South East with six relay stations; and the Gold Coast Southern Hinterland with a relay of nine stations again. It’s a similar story in the Sunshine Coast TV region. This means that, unless you are geographically very lucky, there is not any free white space to operate any UHF wireless mic systems. If this turns out to be the case, we will return to stocking our VHF single channel systems that worked so well back in the 1990s, and which are still the mainstay of our wireless mic business in the US and UK.
The point of relaying all of this ‘techy’ information to you is to let you know that you have to get familiar with what you are using in wireless mic frequencies – and if it is an 800 system then plan to change it in the next financial year’s capital expenditure budget. We will be guiding all of our customers to the right solutions for their TV region as we understand it, and we will stock systems in three of the frequency groups that have white space available come 2014. There may be other options coming along after the changeover, but we won’t know if they are viable until it all happens in 2015 and they are tested. For the sake of the smooth running of your Group Ex program, and for your participants, it is advised that you (or your GFM or club manager) arrange to make the changeover sooner rather than later.
John is the managing director of Aerobic Microphones Australia and has been a supplier to, and active supporter of, the fitness industry for 20 years. To stay up-to-date with developments with the wireless mic changeover, follow John’s blog at http://blog.fitnessaudio.com.au. For more information on Aeromic equipment e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aeromic.com.au