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Topic: Unlicensed use of wireless bands in microphones?
Message: Posted by: Michael Messing (Jul 20, 2008 10:38AM)
I just read this article:

It states that most users of higher end wireless microphones are operating illegally without a license. What does this mean to those of using these mics?

Message: Posted by: Dan McLean Jr aka, Magic Roadie (Jul 20, 2008 10:55AM)
All users of wireless mics in Canada and America require a license in order to operate their wireless mics. It's the same in much of the rest of the world, too. As the article indicates, not many users have licenses, but I think none are exempt.
Message: Posted by: Michael Messing (Jul 20, 2008 11:07AM)
How does one become properly licensed? I did a cursory search on the FCC (U.S.A.) site and didn't find anything other than litigation against a manufacturer (Fleco Corp.) for selling unlicensed wireless microphones. (The suit was filed in 2004.)

Message: Posted by: Dan McLean Jr aka, Magic Roadie (Jul 21, 2008 05:34AM)
In the US, the the FCC will have the most accurate legal info.
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 21, 2008 05:42AM)
I found this on the web:

[quote]Licenses are required to use wireless microphones on vacant TV channels in the United States as they are a part of the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS). However, this requirement is often overlooked and rarely enforced by the FCC.

In many other countries wireless microphone use requires a license. Some governments regard all radio frequencies as military assets and the use of unlicensed radio transmitters, even wireless microphones, may be severely punished.

Message: Posted by: sethb (Jul 21, 2008 07:10AM)
Sounds like an interesting mess.

I always assumed that if a manufacturer used certain frequencies that were approved for a particular use, that was all that was needed. In other words, the manufacturer needs the approval or license, not the user.

However, that appears not to be the case. If so, good luck to the FCC trying to enforce this license requirement -- I have a feeling that the cow left the barn quite a while ago! SETH
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 21, 2008 08:10AM)
Since the wireless mikes are low-power, short-range devices and they don't interfere with other devices outside a given area, I would think that the FCC wouldn't be too concerned about them.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jul 21, 2008 09:19AM)
As an old Montana CB and Ham radio operator, I've often wondered about this. A wireless mic is, after all, basically a low-power, short-range radio. Still, like others, I figured that because of the limited range and frequencies the manufacturer held the appropriate permits on our behalf. According to my Internet research, this is not the case. I'm far from being an expert, still this is what I was able to find on the Internet. References are cited. Hope this helps.

If the receiver and transmitter operate in the 49 MHz or 902-928 MHz band, no license is required. All other frequencies require an FCC license. [Part 15, 90.113, 90.265(b)]

Frankly, the FCC 's enforcement track record indicates that they only get involved if a complaint is received or an unlicensed user interferes with a licensed user. The license seems to be attached to a specific geographic location (such as a stationary bar, comedy club, sports arena, etc...). I can find no reference to what arrangements are made for those of us who travel with our own sound systems.

Licenses are available to businesses, schools, charitable organizations, churches, and hospitals under Part 90. Part 74 Subpart H covers wireless mics used by broadcasters but is beyond the scope of this FAQ. [90.75(a)]

A 5-year renewable license runs $75.00. [90.149(a), 1998 FCC fee filing guide]

As I understand the procedure, you must apply for a specific frequency within a specific geographic location. The FCC guide recommends that you use a scanner to monitor frequencies currently in use at your locale to determine which frequencies are available for the microphone(s) you plan to buy. You should search at least 100 kHz on either side of the frequency of interest. Frequencies that contain weak or no signals should be safe to use.

The FCC makes the following frequencies available for general public use: (MHz) 169.445, 169.505, 170.245, 170.305, 171.045, 171.105, 171.845, and 171.905.

Frequencies in the following bands may be used by broadcast stations or networks, cable TV operators, motion picture producers, and TV program producers under Part 74 Subpart H (MHz): 26.1-26.48, 54-72, 76-88, 161.625-161.775, 174-216, 450-451, 455-456, 470-608, 614-806, 944-952. [See CFR 47 Part 74 Subpart H for more information. [74.802(a), 74.832(a)]

As already mentioned, when in doubt call the FCC at 888-225-5322 and ask what frequencies you are eligible to use.

To apply, request an application and a current copy of FCC rules Part 90 from the FCC. You can buy the rule book from the US Government Printing Office (202-783-3238) or your local Printing Office Book Store. Ask for 47 CFR Part 90. You can also download it from the FCC's web site at: http://www.fcc.gov/oet/info/rules/ [Form 600 instructions]

If you license your mics then discover that someone is stepping on your frequency you should first try to find the other party and try to work out a compromise. If that fails, you can file a complaint with the FCC. Keep in mind, however, that wireless mics operate on a secondary basis, meaning that you can't interfere with primary users (e.g., federal government) but have to accept interference from them. If you are experiencing interference from a primary source, your only choice may be to change frequency. [90.265(b)(4)]

FCC assistance:
call toll-free 888-225-5322

FCC rules:

FCC forms:

FCC fee filing guide:

Wireless microphone tutorials:
Message: Posted by: Dan McLean Jr aka, Magic Roadie (Jul 21, 2008 04:49PM)
Thanks for an excellent post, Skip, and especially for the linked references.

By the way, although I don't know anyone that's been nicked for unlicensed use of wireless mics in Canada or America, I [b]DO[/b] know people that have been nicked in Japan, as well as in Spain and a couple of other European countries.

Two-way radios (aka "walkie talkies") are another matter, though. I've personally had my license checked, and know many other people who've been checked, too. That's not uncommon at large political events, large sporting events, and things like Papal visits. They'll shut you down on the spot [b]AND[/b] can impose a fine.