A look at the white spaces issue for wireless equipment, and what it means for churches
Carolyn Heinze · September 7, 2012
As of June 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that wireless systems, such as wireless microphones and in-ear monitors, could no longer operate in the 700 MHz band (the “white space”). Worship facilities operating systems in this range had to stop using them to avoid interfering with commercial wireless services, and public agencies such as police and fire stations, as well as healthcare services.
“This has created a lot of inward looking among manufacturers because that bandwidth is getting tighter and tighter,” says John Fuqua, director at the Pensacola, Fla.-based AV design and systems integration firm All Pro Sound. This adds yet another variable to microphone selection: if you’re going wireless, you will want to confirm that the technology you choose operates in your designated white space. “You are going to be much more concerned if you are trying to use 16-24 wireless mics vs. if you are going to use three or four.” However, many churches these days are employing upwards of 20 systems. “In that case, you have to use a high-quality unit to keep from having problems.”
To minimize these issues, Donnie Haulk, president and CEO of AE Global Media Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., recommends wired microphones for instruments. “I would limit wireless to be used by praise team vocalists that need to have freedom of movement,” he says, “and I would have all of my instrumentation wired so that I could free up my white space, because it is an issue.”
Haulk also notes that it’s important for churches to keep on top of what’s going on in their region’s white space, because it is ever-changing. “Your receivers are always looking to receive; they are always looking for that frequency that [you’ve] got them tuned into. If someone is driving by or flying over, or a new antenna has gone up, or there is a new digital broadcaster, or a new cell tower has come online, that can affect the church,” he explains. “It can be affected on a weekly basis. The more wireless transmitter/receivers that you have, the more diligent you have to be in making sure that your white space is your white space.”
[Editor’s Note: For a current, detailed report on White Spaces and the FCC regulations that affect wireless microphone usage in churches, see this report from WFM’s sister publication, Church Production Magazine: “Wireless in Worship 2012: With Freedom Comes Challenges,” www.churchproduction.com/wirelessforworship2012.