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Radio Microphone Frequencies - FAQ

FAQS – Frequently Asked Questions

Overview of radio mic usage and changes
Should we be worried about this radio mic licencing issue?
Why have my radio mics stopped working properly?
Are my radio mics legal?
Will my radio mics still work in and beyond 2013?
We are a small / rural church – will this affect us?
We are based in N. Ireland – does this affect us?
Can I retune my existing radio mics to use licenced channels?
What are the licencing options for radio mics – Do I need channel 38 or Fixed Site licences?
What are the costs of Radio mic licences?
Which radio mic products are suited to use with licences?
What about these new digital radio mics around the 2.4 GHz / Wi-Fi tuning ranges?
Will this affect any of the other sound / PA equipment at our church?
Are there any concessions or compensation for this upheaval with my radio mics?
How much might this all cost us if we find we have to change to licenced radio mic systems?
How do we arrange radio mic licences?
How long does it take to arrange radio mic licences for new licenced systems?
What if we cannot afford to upgrade all our radio mic systems to licenced products?
Will this all change again in a couple of years?
What should we do now?
Summary of radio mic use for 2013 onwards
Useful contact details

2013 RADIO MIC FREQUENCY CHECKER

If you already own radio mics this flow chart will help you check if you are on legal frequencies and what you need to do if you have any problems



Should we be worried about this radio mic licencing issue?
If you own any wireless radio microphone or wireless radio in-ear-monitoring systems you would do well to double check your existing systems are working correctly and are legal to use (see below 'Are my radio mics legal?'). We would strongly advise that you make yourselves aware of the possible issues laid out below and what your options are so you can plan ahead and build this into future budgeting for your church.

Why have my radio mics stopped working properly?
This could be due to a number of factors, some of which are common and may be easily solved, including:

- Broken lapel microphone cable (usually heard as crackling or intermittent sound) - need to purchase new lapel mic
- Check batteries
- Check all connections and settings on sound system (volume, signal routing etc)
- Check MUTE is not ‘on’
- Check radio transmitter (beltpack/hand held) and receiver are on the same radio frequency setting (and check they are legal – with no licence you must use UHF  863-865Mhz)

However, if you are experiencing radio interference from some other local source it could now be (from Summer 2013) the new 4G mobile phone networks – and this could mean you need to purchase new radio mic equipment and licences – please read on.  

Are my radio mics legal?
As long as you are using UHF channel 70 (863-865 MHz) or (usually older) VHF (173-175 MHz) systems you do not need a licence. Or, if you are using other frequencies you should have a suitable UK licence from JFMG allowing you to do so.  Using licenced channels without a licence or now using any tuning within chan 61-69 (790-862 MHz previously for TV and licenced radio mics) is unlawful. Unlawful use can result in prosecution including fines up to £5000, seizure of equipment and possible imprisonment. Please also use the flow chart above to check this.  
 

Notewe encounter a great many churches that are inadvertently using radio mics in the channel 61-69 range (790-862MHz) which is now unlawful to do! Please do check that you comply with the regulations and retune your radio systems into channel 70 (863-865MHz) if you find you are using any other channels in this radio band. 

Will our radio mics still work in and beyond 2013?
The new 4G mobile phone networks are likely to be pretty much UK-wide by autumn 2013. There is some likelihood that these will interfere with radio mics on channel 70 (deregulated, licence exempt band 863-865MHz). If this does occur the only option will be to purchase new radio mic systems with licences on licenced channels which will allow use away from the 4G part of the radio spectrum. It may be best to wait and see how this pans out with your existing (otherwise working fine) radio mic systems. If you are looking to purchase new radio mics we would certainly recommend that these are licenced systems, so removing any uncertainty for on-going long term use. It is worth noting that some radio mic manufacturers have stopped offering channel 70 tuning products altogether in the UK - this does perhaps indicate that this issue is being taken seriously by the industry as a whole. 

We are a small / rural church – will this affect us?
The new 4G mobile phone networks launching in 2013 are designed to offer country wide coverage (90-95% coverage by some mobile phone operators) to enable faster internet connection, even to locations without wired broadband services. This means just about anywhere could be affected as new 4G phone masts / base stations are constructed and as time goes on more and more people will probably own new 4G mobile phones so there will likely be few locations unaffected. At this time (early 2013) we can only wait and see. ( N.B. Issues with FreeView TV interference from 4G in certain locations are already confirmed)

We are based in N. Ireland – does this affect us?
The same rules apply N. Ireland as in the UK mainland these are subject to the same radio mic transmission changes for 4G mobile networks. For other territories we strongly advise that you double check your local radio licencing authority (eg. Channel Islands, S. Ireland etc).

Can I retune my existing radio mics to use licenced channels?
In short, no. Just about all radio mic systems do not have a broad enough tuning range to tune down to the new licenced channels which are quite some distance from channel 70 in the radio spectrum. There are a couple of manufacturers offering a service where their radio systems can be upgraded (new circuit boards etc) to be able to use licenced frequencies, but this is only applicable to certain, mostly professional, products and only of a certain age. This means that the vast majority of radio mics in current use cannot be upgraded. In this case the only option (if they do become unusable due to 4G mobile phone networks) will be to purchase new radio mic systems and licences.

What are the licencing options for radio mics – Do I need channel 38 or Fixed Site licences?
Your church will likely already have some other licences such as CCLI (copyright) and TV licence but these do not cover the use of wireless radio microphone systems. Licences specific to Radio mic usage are allocated in the UK by JFMG (Join Frequency Management Group: www.jfmg.co.uk ).

There are 2 main options for radio mic licencing in the UK: Channel 38 (shared) and Fixed Site (coordinated) licences. Here is a brief overview of licence options - Pros and Cons:
 

Fixed Site Licence (FSL) – ‘coordinated licence’  - RECOMMENDED FOR USE IN CHURCHES
Cost       £28.00 (no VAT) annual licence (plus £15.00 DM Music admin fee to arrange this for you) – one licence required per radio mic system you have (each with unique tuning)
Uses      at one dedicated location only (based on postcode address) on a specifically allocated radio frequency from JFMG
Pros       ensures you will have interference free use of your radio mic system as your radio transmission frequency is unique to you at that place.
Cons      not all radio mic systems will be able to tune to a FSL (such as lower budget models). It can be quite complex to arrange licence correctly.

Channel 38 Licence – ‘shared licence’ nomadic – FOR USE IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS
Cost       £75.00 (no VAT) annual licence (plus £48.00 DM Music admin fee to arrange this for you) – one single licence will cover approx. 10-12 radio mic systems all in Chan 38
Uses      anywhere in the UK. Is a range of frequencies from 606-614 MHz so you can tune anywhere within this area.
Pros       allows use anywhere and can cover a large number of radio mic systems (approx. 10-12). Is also simple to arrange licence yourself with JFMG.co.uk
Cons      Channel 38 is shared with any other users of this band so more risk of interference than systems with FSLs.
 

What are the costs of Radio mic licences?
Channel 38 ‘shared’ licence (in multiple locations)        £75 Single annual licence (approx. 12 systems)
Fixed Site Licences ‘coordinated’ (one location only)     £28 per radio mic system/frequency, annual

(No VAT on license costs. Additional admin fees if someone else arranges these on your behalf will incur VAT)

Remember these are annual, renewable costs for the licences only. There may also be other admin fees if someone else, by agreement, arranges these on your behalf. These licence fees are extra to the one off purchase price of the radio mic equipment and do not come included with any radio mic system that itself requires a licence to be used in the UK.

Which radio mic products are suited to use with licences?
Most radio mic manufacturers now offer 'Channel 38 ready' systems in most product price ranges. (Do not forget to book your channel 38 licence with JFMG.co.uk). However, the better option for churches is often to have Fixed Site Licences which are unique to your location and therefore offer better peace of mind and reduces further the possibility of interference from other local users (which is possible with Channel 38 licences).

Fixed Site Licences are specific radio frequency tunings so cheaper radio mic products may not have the fine tuning required to suit use with a fixed site licence. This generally means that the products themselves will not be in the low / mid-price bands. The advantage however is that the higher quality products on a fixed site licence should offer better quality and longer term use for peace of mind.  Please remember that this must be checked and ideally purchased BEFORE the product is purchased as not all radio mic systems will tune to all given radio frequencies in all areas of the UK. It is therefore recommended that you consult an expert for advice and licence management in these cases for Fixed Site Licence use.

What about these new digital radio mics around the 2.4 GHz / Wi-Fi tuning ranges?
These are becoming more common from a range of manufacturers. Many offer licence free use around the 2GHz WiFi radio band (so not in the UHF band) with hi fidelity sound quality etc. However, these are in practise mostly in the entry and mid-range products price band so, while likely OK for amateur use these may not be so well suited to larger installations such as in churches which often require  multiple systems, additional remote antenna systems etc. Indeed some may affect or be affected by Wi-Fi so may not offer a similar peace of mind to licenced UHF (analogue) radio mic systems. Further, most digital systems in the Wi-Fi bands can only operate around 4-6 wireless systems simultaneously so for larger radio mic numbers the licenced UHF  systems are the only option. Indeed there are also some digital radio mics that still run in the UHF bands so, like their analogue UHF counterparts, require a licence. 

Will this affect any of the other sound / PA equipment at our church?
No. This radio frequency change will only have consequences for the wireless radio transmitter and receiver systems in radio microphones and radio In-Ear-Monitor systems. Regular wired (cabled) microphones, power amplifiers, mixers, loud speakers etc will not be affected by this.

Are there any concessions or compensation for this upheaval with my radio mics?
There was previously in place a policy for some compensation for certain radio mic users already on licenced systems. This deadline has now passed and there are no concessions available at all should you find you have to purchase new radio mic systems due to 4G mobile phone network interference.

How much might this all cost us if we find we have to change to licenced radio mic systems?
There are a number of factors that have always informed the cost of radio mics best suited to a particular church’s needs.  These remain much the same including product reliability, sound quality, availability of spare parts and backup support, the need for remote antenna systems and more. Now with the addition of (recommended) radio mic licences here are some examples of what a new, licenced radio microphone system might cost (products only) – do not forget the annual renewal cost of relevant licences. As ever, please call us for more information and quotations if required on 01582 761122:
 

Example 1:
Very Small church with 1 basic lapel radio mic, use only at the church bi-weekly
Recommended Fixed site licence
Likely cost approx. £350 

Example 2:
Small church with 2 basic radio mics, use only at the church, bi-weekly
Recommended Fixed site licences
Likely cost approx. £700 - £1000

Example 3:
Medium sized church, 4 pro quality radio mics, regular use in church during the week
Recommended Fixed site licences
Likely cost approx. £2000 - £2200

Example 4:
Large church, more than 4 pro quality radio mics, regular use in church during the week, requiring remote antenna distribution system also
Recommended Fixed site licences
Likely cost approx. £2500 - £4000 +

Example 5:
Medium sized church, 3 pro quality radio mics, regular use in church during the week and also other locations for outreach work, outdoor events etc
Recommended Fixed site licences AND Channel 38 licences
Likely cost approx. £1000 - £2000
(Note – it is recommended that portable radio mic systems are separate from installed radio mic systems - this could add extra products for each requirement and so increase the overall spend)

Example 6:
Single radio mic system for outreach use / singer / guitarist / amateur performer
Recommended Channel 38 licence
Likely cost approx. starting from £450

How do we arrange radio mic licences?
This is done by contacting JFMG (Join Frequency Management Group www.jfmg.co.uk ). Channel 38 licences are relatively simple to book online although Fixed Site Licences (FSLs) can be more complex to arrange correctly in conjunction with the suitable radio mic product. DM Music offer a service to arrange the licences on your behalf and manage these for on-going annual renewal.

How long does it take to arrange radio mic licences for new licenced systems?
Generally channel 38 ‘shared’ licences can be booked online with JFMG (Join Frequency Management Group www.jfmg.co.uk ) for instant use. Fixed Site Licences (FSLs) can take longer as JFMG need to assess available frequencies at your location. Once this is complete the appropriate radio mic system products can then be ordered to suit your specific new FSL frequencies. This can therefore take a couple of weeks or so.

What if we cannot afford to upgrade all our radio mic systems to licenced products?
If you find you are experiencing interference from 4G Mobile phone networks on your existing radio mics but replacement or upgrade is beyond your budget there are two main options: 1. Upgrade one radio mic system at a time over a period that will ease your cash flow. 2. Revert to using wired mics.

Will this all change again in a couple of years?
We simply don’t know! 3 or 4 years ago we did not know about this current change so anything is possible! We would hope that this does not happen again in the near future and there are currently no plans to again change radio mic frequency usage. Also product technology developments may also help mitigate any possible future issues, but we will simply have to wait and see.

What should we do now?
Here is a check list for your radio mic systems and how to plan for possible 4G interference: 

- If in doubt, ask. Don’t make an expensive, irreversible purchasing mistake!
- Check you are legal – current unlicensed users can only use UHF Channel 70 (863-865 MHz) or VHF (173-175 MHz).
             ....If you are on UHF Chan 61-69 (790-862MHz) you MUST retune!
             ....If you are on UHF Chan 21-60 (up to 790MHz) you MUST purchase a licence!
- If using Channel 70 it may be best to wait and see if you do get interference later in 2013
- Plan ahead – Ask us to quote for new licenced radio mic systems in case they are required


There are a few scenarios that will likely occur in most UK churches with regards to radio mic use through 2013 as follows. These are some common enquiries and requests we receive from many churches: 
 

“We currently own some radio mics without licences (on chan 70) all working fine right now”
We recommend that you continue to use these and see how things work out later in the year (2013). While there is some possibility that these will be affected by 4G mobile phone networks this will not likely occur until summer/autumn 2013 and beyond - if at all. This also then gives you time to plan ahead and budget for a possible upgrade if required.

“We were looking to purchase new radio mic systems soon”
We strongly recommend that any new radio mic purchases are licenced systems so as to eliminate the uncertainty due to possible 4G mobile phone interference.

“What happens if we buy unlicensed systems now and then experience interference later on?”
If you do decide (against our recommendations) that you do not buy a licenced system now that is your own risk. Should this then become a problem due to interference the only option available to you will be to discard the unlicensed radio mic systems and purchase new licenced systems with all the added costs. Please note that this will not be a product warranty issue so returns will not be accepted by suppliers or manufacturers.

“We just want add an extra hand held mic or lapel mic to existing radio mic systems”
If your existing radio mic system is already on unlicensed bands we recommend you consider carefully if you wish to spend on this addition now which could later experience interference. Perhaps it would be better to wait and see if you do start to experience interference, or start from scratch with the purchase of new licenced systems and licences to suit your needs.

Summary
This is a relatively complex issue and could potentially affect a great many churches (and other radio mic (RM) users) in the UK. Here is a brief summary of what could happen, what you need to do and what your options are: 

- If in doubt, ask. Don’t make an expensive, irreversible purchasing mistake!
- Check you are legal – current unlicensed users can only use UHF Channel 70 (863-865Mhz)
- Experiencing interference from 4G? – you may need to purchase new radio mic systems and licences
- New radio mic systems for use in a single location – Fixed Site Licences recommended 
- New radio mic systems for use in multiple location – Use ‘Shared’ Channel 38 licence 
- Channel 38 ‘shared’ licence  = £75 Single annual licence (covers approx. 12 RM systems)
- Fixed Site Licences ‘coordinated’ = £28 per radio mic system/frequency, annual
- We recommend that ALL new radio mic purchases are licenced for your peace of mind
- We offer product and licencing advice, management, supply for hundreds of UK churches. 

Useful contact details  
JFMG (Join Frequency Management Group) www.jfmg.co.uk tel: 0207 299 8660 
Ofcom (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) www.ofcom.org.uk  
BEIRG (British Entertainment Industry Radio Group) www.beirg.co.uk   

For a more condensed downloadable and printable version of this information please also click: DM Quick Expert Guide

DM Music Ltd, Spring 2013 
tel: 01582 761122