Shure Whiteboard Sessions: What’s Happening to UHF?

Welcome back to the Shure Whiteboard Sessions. In last week’s episode, we covered the most common parts of spectrum used for the operation of wireless microphones and explained why the UHF bands are the preferred space for professional users. With the latter in mind, today’s episode will explain what’s happening to the UHF space and how it affects you.

Shure Whiteboard Sessions Header: What Happening to UHF

The simple truth of the matter is that UHF spectrum is under continuous threat, and to understand why, we don’t have to look much further than the mobile telephone. All of us own one of these devices – or two in some cases – with the primary purpose of consuming digital content in one form or another. In other words, the mobile phone is no longer just a mobile phone, and subsequently, data consumption has sky-rocketed.

The sharp increase in demand for greater mobile bandwidth resulted in big changes to how UHF spectrum is allocated in an on-going saga beginning when analogue TV services switched to digital transmission. When analogue TV switched off in 2012, the immediate assumption was that this process would free up large portions of spectrum, and subsequently, it could be sold for a profit to the highest bidder. The first to go was UHF 790 – 862 MHz (otherwise known as the 800 MHz band), which was auctioned off for use by next-gen 4G mobile data services.

This process had a profound impact on users of wireless microphones as the 700 MHz band was used heavily by wireless microphone operators for large-scale professional events, such as the Olympic Ceremonies and major concerts to name but a few. Overnight, our UHF operating range dropped significantly – as demonstrated in the graph below:

Whiteboard 800mhz

To make matters worse, plans are currently in motion to allocate further spectrum for use by 4G services from 694 MHz to 790 MHz (otherwise known as the 700 MHz band), resulting in the situation illustrated below:

Whiteboard 700MHz

The graph above clearly demonstrates a significant impact on wireless microphone operators. Where previously we had access from 470 – 862 MHz, major events must now fit the same large channel count of wireless systems into the much smaller range of 470 – 694 MHz once the second wave is cleared over the coming years. Consequently, the chance for interference is much greater than in previous years, making a solid understanding of how to correctly coordinate and deploy wireless systems more important than ever.

How Can You Prepare for the Future?

The real question is this: how can we mitigate the risk of interference in this newly congested environment?

There are many actions you can take to help you prepare for a more compact future as follows:

  1. Attend one of our Shure Wireless Mastered seminars covering a broad range of wireless best practice.
  2. Ensure you have a solid understanding of how to correctly coordinate and deploy wireless systems through the use of RF coordination software by booking yourself into one of our Shure Wireless Workbench Masterclasses.
  3. Subscribe to future Shure Whiteboard Sessions at the link below to receive one topic each week explaining a wide range of best practice advice.

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Marc Henshall

Marc forms part of our Pro Audio team at Shure UK and specialises in Digital Marketing. He also holds a BSc First Class Hons Degree in Music Technology. When not at work he enjoys playing the guitar, producing music, and dabbling in DIY (preferably with a good craft beer or two).

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