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Wireless System Licensing Guide


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#1 Noisyjon

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 03:07 PM

Welcome to a quick (!) guide to Wireless systems and the law regarding using them.

I am going to cover the Licensing side of things here and not go into any kind of comparison between different systems and the way they work as there are many of them out there and I don't use one so couldn't possibly comment on your particular make and model of system!

A bit about me first. I work in the TV Broadcast industry and one of my specialities is spec'ing, licensing, tuning and installing wireless radio mic and in ear monitor equipment for clients. All shows and programmes on TV rely on wireless equipment in some way during their recording/transmission.

All the wireless gear that is available for muso's works on the same frequencies and comes under the same licensing bracket as my work related gear so thought I'd share my knowledge with you all as it seems apparent that a lot of gear is being used unlicensed and therefore possibly illegally.

Here in the UK Ofcom look after it all via the PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) section. You can look through their website for all of the information and costs, license application forms, etc here: http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/radiocommunication-licences/pmse/

The frequency spectrum we use is broken up and managed in 8 MHz wide 'Channels'.
For example Channel 38 is between 606 and 614 MHz. Therefore Channel 39 is 614 to 622 MHz, Ch.40 is 622 to 630 MHz, etc.

The good news is that there are some free to use unregulated ranges you can use. There are 2 small windows - one in the VHF range: 173.800 to 175.000 MHz and one in the UHF range (part of Channel 70): 863 to 865 MHz.
There's also the 2400 to 2483.5 MHz (2.4 GHz) range that is free to use and being utilized by many manufactures now.
What this actually means is that they're basically a "free for all" for anyone to use so there is a more likely chance there will be interference issues.

If you use ANY other frequencies outside of the above mentioned ranges then you need to license your equipment for use.

The costs vary depending on the amount of frequencies required, the length of time that they are required for use and the type of license required.

There are 3 license options available, which are:

A) 'Shared' license.
VHF:175 MHz to 210 MHz is available on a 'shared' license basis. There is a group of 15 set frequencies that can be licensed across the whole UK for a year at £75 online or £85 through the office.

UHF: 606 MHz to 614 MHZ (Channel 38) is also available on a 'shared' license basis.
You can tune your equipment anywhere between 606.500 and 613.500 MHz and be licensed across the whole UK.

Since March 2015 this now includes the ranges of 823 - 832 MHz and (excluding Northern Ireland) 1785 - 1805 MHz.

The only disadvantage to the Shared license is that anyone/everyone in the UK can hold one, hence the 'shared' bit. This can increase the chances of interference at a venue, but makes it's a lot less likely than if you were to operate in the unregulated ranges.
The thing to bear in mind is that Comperes, DJs, etc could be on site with their radio mic's in this range. In the real world, and in that instance, you can work out moving frequencies between you to keep everything interference free, it's not too hard to do that.

The costs for this are:
Annually: £75 online/£85 through the office,
Bi-Annually: £135 online/£155 through the office.

B) 'fixed site' license.
You can request specific frequency/s, or be given, a 'clean' one/set for the venue by OFCOM. It lasts a year at a specific venue for a specific frequency or frequencies and the important bit here is that this type of license can only be obtained by the property owner.
This is worth bearing in mind if you do regular gigs at a venue and you're friendly enough with the Landlord to get him/her to book you something to use when you're there. The caveat here is that they will own the license, not you, so they can authorise anyone else to use it as they see fit.

A basic 1 frequency fixed site license is currently £28 annually.

C) 'Coordinated frequency' license.
You can request a specific frequency, or be given, a 'clean' one/set for the venue by OFCOM.
A basic license of 1 frequency at a specified venue for 48 hours (the minimum amount of time licensed) is currently £28.


The heavy bit is that you could be either fined, nicked or have equipment confiscated if you get caught using unlicensed equipment.
These measures, in my experience, are unlikely* but possible so worth remembering.

*Just to add a more recent experience - I was on a job where one particular frequency was in use but had been forgotten about and not booked/licensed. There was an Ofcom representative on site helping someone else out and he had their super-duper portable spectrum analyzer and saw our frequency! After a brief discussion the gist of it was just pay & license it right here, right now and that's it this time but be more careful in the future please!

If you're still with me, congratulations.

I will try and keep this updated and as current as possible.
Any questions the let me have 'em!

Cheers, Jon.

EDIT: General update July 2016.

Edited by Noisyjon, 10 July 2016 - 03:34 PM.

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#2 Kiwi

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 03:14 PM

interesting, I used to have one Trantec S2000 diversity unit that worked on 177Mhz and I never used it because the signal was full of interference and noise. The other two I still have are fine and ran on 173.8 and 174.5. Is it likely the 177 didn't work because of a frequency issue or was it an electronic problem with something wearing out?
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#3 Noisyjon

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 03:20 PM

View PostCrazykiwi, on Dec 27 2007, 03:14 PM, said:

interesting, I used to have one Trantec S2000 diversity unit that worked on 177Mhz and I never used it because the signal was full of interference and noise. The other two I still have are fine and come within the designated bandwidth I wonder if this is why rather than due to an electronic problem with the unit?

Could be the kit...Trantec are notorious in the Pro industry!!!
Different companies do things slightly differently to each other so the Trantec may be less 'RF robust' than some others or just a bad example.

What make are you using now out of interest?
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#4 Gazm

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 04:02 PM

Many thanks for the useful post Jon.

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#5 WalMan

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 04:44 PM

Thanks for the info. I really should read up more on this as we are running 2 guitar, 1 mic and 2 in ear wireless systems nowadays.

When I got my first Nady kit ages ago I seem to recall I did actually get a licence for the first year (it was so long ago perhaps I only thought about it :) )

Having never had problems in all the years of using wireless - including playing next door to a police station and expecting, but not getting, someone coming in to say "will you stop bleeding over our airwaves!!") - I have never bothered since (though I know I possibly should.

I seem to recall reading in the MU mag that there could be trouble brewing with the "free" bands being auctioned off?

Edited by WalMan, 27 December 2007 - 04:46 PM.

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:14 PM

Thanks John
Food for thought
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#7 Noisyjon

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 12:59 PM

View PostWalMan, on Dec 27 2007, 04:44 PM, said:

Thanks for the info. I really should read up more on this as we are running 2 guitar, 1 mic and 2 in ear wireless systems nowadays.

When I got my first Nady kit ages ago I seem to recall I did actually get a licence for the first year (it was so long ago perhaps I only thought about it :) )

Having never had problems in all the years of using wireless - including playing next door to a police station and expecting, but not getting, someone coming in to say "will you stop bleeding over our airwaves!!") - I have never bothered since (though I know I possibly should.

I seem to recall reading in the MU mag that there could be trouble brewing with the "free" bands being auctioned off?

Hi Walman,

Now there's a question!
A lot, if not all, of the frequencies wireless kit is manufactured on is being auctioned off.
Ofcom has said that it will keep Channel 69 and the first part of Channel 70 'as is' in respect to the shared license and free to use spectrum.
It will cause more complications as those who currently use sub 854 MHz won't be physically able to so will start having to use between 854 to 870.
It's a bit brain bending and probably best to read the Ofcom review in the news section of jfmg.co.uk to get a better idea.

As for your band's substantial wireless set up, if I were you I'd get those who use it to club together and stump up for a Channel 69 license to cover you all.

What make if in ear monitors do you use just out of intertest?

Regards,
Jon.

Edited by jonthebass, 28 December 2007 - 01:00 PM.

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 03:24 PM

View Postjonthebass, on Dec 27 2007, 03:20 PM, said:

What make are you using now out of interest?
I'm just using a cable for the third bass but otherwise two other identical Trantec S2000 units. The only difference is the frequency. Didn't know that Trantec had a reputation... ...might be worth giving one of them new fangled digital units a go, methinks.
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#9 warwickhunt

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:36 PM

Cheers for that Jon.

I did a bit of research into this a short while ago as I purchased a couple of off the shelf units (on the 'free' frequency spectrum that you outlined) to use in a talent show we were putting on at the school where I work. Actually the research came much later than the show due to the fact that I received a communication through our school secretary inquiring if we had any wireless equipment and if it was on x to y frequency, if so then we needed to pay (through this company) the license fee! You guessed it the frequencies in question were the freebies. I contacted the seller of the units (SC) and was told that there was no license required for their use. I contacted the company trying to get the license fee from us and said that they were in the wrong and that we didn't need a license. A week later we got a very official looking letter saying that we needed to pay £XXX for the license, I contacted our local Authority legal Dept who very quickly got back to me to say that it was a ruse to scam money out of unsuspecting schools!

Is this something you've come across?
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#10 Noisyjon

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:56 AM

View Postwarwickhunt, on Dec 28 2007, 04:36 PM, said:

Cheers for that Jon.

I did a bit of research into this a short while ago as I purchased a couple of off the shelf units (on the 'free' frequency spectrum that you outlined) to use in a talent show we were putting on at the school where I work. Actually the research came much later than the show due to the fact that I received a communication through our school secretary inquiring if we had any wireless equipment and if it was on x to y frequency, if so then we needed to pay (through this company) the license fee! You guessed it the frequencies in question were the freebies. I contacted the seller of the units (SC) and was told that there was no license required for their use. I contacted the company trying to get the license fee from us and said that they were in the wrong and that we didn't need a license. A week later we got a very official looking letter saying that we needed to pay £XXX for the license, I contacted our local Authority legal Dept who very quickly got back to me to say that it was a ruse to scam money out of unsuspecting schools!

Is this something you've come across?

I have not heard of this scam before.
There are some scumbags out there aren't there.
What happened after?
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Posted 29 December 2007 - 11:17 AM

I heard nothing more from the legal dept and we never again received any communication from said company. I do remember a circular going around asking people to forward any such future queries to the legal eagles.
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#12 dave_bass5

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 08:12 PM

Jon.
Thanks for getting this subject out in the open. Very interesting reading.
Im wondering though, outside of pro situations how many of us will ever pay for a license.
You ive mentioned what freq's i use in the other thread and so i guess i should pay but as ive never had any problems i cant see me ever paying.
I can always switch to one of the free freqs if i need to. I only use what i use because ive not had any problems so far and so will stick with that unless i have to change.
Anyone actually ever get fined or charged for a one off gig?


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Posted 02 January 2008 - 12:25 AM

View Postjonthebass, on Dec 28 2007, 12:59 PM, said:

As for your band's substantial wireless set up, if I were you I'd get those who use it to club together and stump up for a Channel 69 license to cover you all.

What make if in ear monitors do you use just out of intertest?
Jon

Now there's a thought. Perhaps I ought to look into this further.

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#14 Noisyjon

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 01:13 PM

View Postdave_bass5, on Jan 1 2008, 08:12 PM, said:

Jon.
Thanks for getting this subject out in the open. Very interesting reading.
Im wondering though, outside of pro situations how many of us will ever pay for a license.
You ive mentioned what freq's i use in the other thread and so i guess i should pay but as ive never had any problems i cant see me ever paying.
I can always switch to one of the free freqs if i need to. I only use what i use because ive not had any problems so far and so will stick with that unless i have to change.
Anyone actually ever get fined or charged for a one off gig?

Hi Dave,
The bottom line is you need a license if you use anything outside of the un-regulated ranges, no matter what.
As for fines & charges - It does happen.
Imagine if you powered up at the Dog & Duck for a gig and unbeknown to you you are interfering with a TV distribution system in the tower block next door.
All of a sudden there's hundreds of people complaining to Ofcom who come looking for the offender and there you are.
They can not only confiscate the Wireless kit itself but the associated equipment with it if they require. It could be your whole rig or band's whole setup!

It works the other way too. For example: If you have a license and at the gig DJ Bobby Dazzler is interfering with you, with his un-licensed funky wireless mic, then you can ask him for his license to prove he's 'legal'.
When he doesn't have one you can take appropriate action. Usually asking them to go to the un-regulated range will do it, but if not then you have the option to report them.

One of the reasons we are now losing radio sprctrum to Digital TV, Wireless internet & Mobile networks is due to many un-licensed users all over the UK using the radio spectrum and it going on un-noticed.
If Ofcom could see a ton of licenses being issued for gigs & events then they might have thought twice about selling it off - who knows.

By 2012 we will lose 806.000 MHz to 854.000 MHz due to the sell off.

More food for thought for the next bout of radio spectrum sell off!

Regards,
Jon.
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#15 dave_bass5

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 01:26 PM

Jon.
I understand the implications but im just wondering if any of this has happened to anyone.

While your right about being able to go and ask the DJ to prove he has a licence and if not switch to another freq im not sure there would be anything i could do on the night if i came across this situation. I have asked the DJ's at a couple of my gigs to switch off or change as it was clashing with my single freq GB system and got told they couldn't (or wouldn't). While i could report them it would probably have to be after the event and if i had paid to use a freq that i couldn't i would be forced back to square one.

I agree it is a good idea to have a licence to avoid getting fined or whatever but i feel it might not be worth much on the night.

Still, ill switch to a free, shared freq now that i know i shouldn't use the other but if i do have trouble ill risk one of the others (if i have to)

Thanks again for the info


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#16 Noisyjon

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 02:43 PM

View Postdave_bass5, on Jan 2 2008, 01:26 PM, said:

Jon.
I understand the implications but im just wondering if any of this has happened to anyone.

While your right about being able to go and ask the DJ to prove he has a licence and if not switch to another freq im not sure there would be anything i could do on the night if i came across this situation. I have asked the DJ's at a couple of my gigs to switch off or change as it was clashing with my single freq GB system and got told they couldn't (or wouldn't). While i could report them it would probably have to be after the event and if i had paid to use a freq that i couldn't i would be forced back to square one.

I agree it is a good idea to have a licence to avoid getting fined or whatever but i feel it might not be worth much on the night.

Still, ill switch to a free, shared freq now that i know i shouldn't use the other but if i do have trouble ill risk one of the others (if i have to)

Thanks again for the info

I don't personally know of anyone getting done...but there's a question for our fellow BC'ers?
My oppo at work has been asked for his license while out on a job. He had one so that was OK!

It's good to hear you are in the un-regulated range so won't have licensing issues.
As for the 'on the night' value, it's not just the interference you may get at the venue that's sorted out beforehand it's the interference you may cause to others that is halted.

For an example I know of - Radio telescopes and some radar services in the UK operate in the mid to high 500 MHz range. Without knowing you could interfere with them and their important work and not know about it.
There are all sorts of things that can be around in the air where you are that you just don't know about.

I think this is where the Channel 69 Shared license is spot on for us Guys with it's year long, UK wide coverage.
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#17 stevebasshead

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 01:45 PM

Given the useful nature of the info in this thread and the longer term implications can I suggest this is made into a Sticky?
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Posted 22 January 2008 - 09:22 AM

Hello All,

A quick update.

Ofcom have issued a final (I think) report on the radio spectrum sell off and it looks like this:

The last areas receiving analogue TV will finally cease in 2012.
When this 'Digital Switch Over' is finished the situation is this:

Channel 70 is staying 'as is' and available in terms of the free to use regulations.

Channels 21 to 30 (470 to 550MHz) and Channels 41 to 62 (630 to 806MHz) will be available on an 'Interleaved' basis.
This means whatever frequencies digital TV transmission isn't using in a particular area then you can in theory license and use.

The Channels and frequencies that are being auctioned off and that will be un-usable are:
Channels 31 to 37 (550 to 606MHz), Channels 39 & 40 (614 to 630MHz) and Channels 63 to 69 (806 to 862MHz).

I think the repercussions for us Guys & Girls is that there are a lot of people out there using wireless kit especially between 838 to 862 MHz.
When they can't use 838 to 862MHz after the Digital Switch Over they will have to migrate up to 863 to 865 MHz, so that area is going to be very busy.

Now I'm not sure about the lower 'free to use' frequency range (173.700 to 175.100MHz) and will find out how that is going to be affected.
This may be a sweet spot to start buying kit in if it will be unaffected.

Until then,
Cheers,
Jon.

Edited by jonthebass, 14 July 2011 - 04:48 PM.

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#19 OldGit

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 02:07 PM

John, Do you know how far apart the frequencies have to be to avoid interference problems?
We have 4 Sennheiser Freeports mics using 863.1, 863.7, 864.1, and 864.9.
We also have an AKG bug running 864.375.
I have a tunable Sennheiser EW172 system and I'd like to use a frequency in the free range but not interfere with the other systems receivers ..
Should I just set it to somewhere between the others such as 863.375 or will that risk interfering with the signals either side?
Thanks
OG
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#20 Noisyjon

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 07:11 PM

View PostOldGit, on Feb 3 2008, 02:07 PM, said:

John, Do you know how far apart the frequencies have to be to avoid interference problems?
We have 4 Sennheiser Freeports mics using 863.1, 863.7, 864.1, and 864.9.
We also have an AKG bug running 864.375.
I have a tunable Sennheiser EW172 system and I'd like to use a frequency in the free range but not interfere with the other systems receivers ..
Should I just set it to somewhere between the others such as 863.375 or will that risk interfering with the signals either side?
Thanks
OG
Hello OG,

As a rule of thumb about 350KHz spacing is required between transmitters, e.g. 863.100, 863.450, 863.800, etc.
That puts the AKG bug too close to 2 other transmitters already!

There are issues that arise, interference wise, with the more transmitters used all at the same time in the same place.
This can normally be avoided with a bit of frequency planning.

I will need to put my brain on it in the morning and see if your situation can be sorted, but think 5 transmitters between 863 to 865MHz may not be possible. I'll have to confirm.

Can all of the equipment you mention 'free' tune (like your Sennheiser EW172 kit) or is it pre-set to a set of frequencies?
This will also determine the outcome of your conundrum!

Until then,
Regards,
Jon.
Fender CS, Lakand USA & MM PDN Stingray Basses, MarkBass & Mesa/Boogie Amps and a Barefaced cab.

The freedom of speech is wonderful, Right up there with freedom not to listen!

#21 OldGit

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 08:37 PM

View Postjonthebass, on Feb 3 2008, 07:11 PM, said:

Hello OG,

As a rule of thumb about 350KHz spacing is required between transmitters, e.g. 863.100, 863.450, 863.800, etc.
That puts the AKG bug too close to 2 other transmitters already!

There are issues that arise, interference wise, with the more transmitters used all at the same time in the same place.
This can normally be avoided with a bit of frequency planning.

I will need to put my brain on it in the morning and see if your situation can be sorted, but think 5 transmitters between 863 to 865MHz may not be possible. I'll have to confirm.

Can all of the equipment you mention 'free' tune (like your Sennheiser EW172 kit) or is it pre-set to a set of frequencies?
This will also determine the outcome of your conundrum!

Until then,
Regards,
Jon.

Hi Jon
Only my EW172 can be tuned. The rest are fixed. Ho hum
OG
"Gimme likkle bass, make me wind up me waist"
Band: Jellied Reels Rocky Barn Dance Band. Bristol

My BC threads: | OldGit's Band Website Help Service | Basschat Tips for Playing Weddings thread | My BC Feedback

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#22 Noisyjon

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:08 AM

View PostOldGit, on Feb 3 2008, 08:37 PM, said:

Hi Jon
Only my EW172 can be tuned. The rest are fixed. Ho hum
OG

Hello again OG,

That answers that really.
The only thing I could recommend is shelling out for a Channel 69 license and setting the Sennheiser system to work in that range.

Jon.
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The freedom of speech is wonderful, Right up there with freedom not to listen!

#23 OldGit

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:20 AM

View Postjonthebass, on Feb 4 2008, 09:08 AM, said:

Hello again OG,

That answers that really.
The only thing I could recommend is shelling out for a Channel 69 license and setting the Sennheiser system to work in that range.

Jon.

Ok Thanks
OG
"Gimme likkle bass, make me wind up me waist"
Band: Jellied Reels Rocky Barn Dance Band. Bristol

My BC threads: | OldGit's Band Website Help Service | Basschat Tips for Playing Weddings thread | My BC Feedback

Japanese Fenders For Sale: Jaguar Bass Oly White | Jazz 62 RI Gunmetal Blue | Jazz 62 RI Black | Precision 57RI Black, US Pickups
"My favorites [Fenders] are the MIJ reissues" - Bill Nash. I'm with you there, Bill
Horn Reflectors For Sale: Sax and Trumpet Stage Sound Reflectors. Enables horn players to hear themselves and cheaper than IEMs...

Gear:
The A Team Wood & Tronics Ergon Custom 4 ("Rosa") Jon Shuker Custom P5 | Markbass LMK | Bergantino AE112 x 2 | GRAMMA Pad
The B Team: Stagg EDB | Roland Cube 100
The Rat Team: Rat MIJ 62RI P bass | Rat Peavey Combo 300 BW

#24 crez5150

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 07:48 PM

Just an update on the 2012 situation..... just so you know, the frequencies are not going to be 'switched off' as it were over night.... the deal is that they will be sold off in 2012 but probably will not be going into action until a year or so later... and this is also area dependant

Edited by crez5150, 05 March 2008 - 07:48 PM.

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#25 Finbar

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 05:59 PM

So am I right in thinking that this is the situation...

I currently have a Sennheiser freeport wireless, which as far as I know operates in the free band, so I just use it freely at the moment.

The frequencies it transmits at will be sold off in 2012, meaning I have to shell out to use it?

But for the next 4 years, I am alright to carry on without consequence?

Cheers

#26 crez5150

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 06:20 PM

If your freeport is on Band 'E' (UK Version) 863-865 then you do not have to worry.... as this is exempt
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#27 Noisyjon

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:44 PM

View Postcrez5150, on Mar 5 2008, 07:48 PM, said:

Just an update on the 2012 situation..... just so you know, the frequencies are not going to be 'switched off' as it were over night.... the deal is that they will be sold off in 2012 but probably will not be going into action until a year or so later... and this is also area dependant

Just to clarify - The Digital Switch Over has already started.
Whitehaven has switched over already, as you may know, and there is a schedule for the rest of the country to follow.
It all finishes with the Channel Islands switching over in 2013.
See This Website for some more specific info.

Also the auction and sale of other radio spectrum takes place soon and the winners will be gearing up and switching on in 2012 as well.
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#28 Noisyjon

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:46 PM

View PostFinbar, on Mar 7 2008, 05:59 PM, said:

So am I right in thinking that this is the situation...

I currently have a Sennheiser freeport wireless, which as far as I know operates in the free band, so I just use it freely at the moment.

The frequencies it transmits at will be sold off in 2012, meaning I have to shell out to use it?

But for the next 4 years, I am alright to carry on without consequence?

Cheers

As Crez said, depends on your equipment's operating range.
Let me know the frequency operating range of your gear and we can discuss it if you like...

Jon.
Fender CS, Lakand USA & MM PDN Stingray Basses, MarkBass & Mesa/Boogie Amps and a Barefaced cab.

The freedom of speech is wonderful, Right up there with freedom not to listen!

#29 Finbar

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 01:20 AM

I no longer have the manual for it, and can't find the frequency on the net. I'm a little tied up at the moment, but I will have another rummage around the internet to see if I can find the frequency, as I'd really like to know! :)

#30 Noisyjon

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 08:43 AM

The costings have now been updated.
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