You may have seen the recent press information about the wireless spectrum and the potential sell-off, or redistribution of the bandwidth in which users of this technology operate. There have been recent updates to this all-important issue, which everyone should be aware of.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the regulatory body responsible for allocating radio spectrum for use in Australia. The use of all wireless microphones, in-ear monitors and wireless guitar and keyboard transmitters is regulated by the ACMA in Australia. The ACMA is currently assessing all future radio spectrum requirements in Australia.
The wireless audio distributors in Australia have recently come together under the banner of the Australian Wireless Audio Group (AWAG) which is being co-ordinated by the Australian Music Association (AMA). The primary function of AWAG is to work with the ACMA and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) on developing appropriate long term solutions to this issue on behalf of both the industry and the key wireless audio user groups.
As an industry, we are not formally recognised as a spectrum user, unlike a telco (Telstra, Optus etc) for example. This is due to the fact that currently wireless microphone users operate under a class license system. This, in effect, allows radio mic users to access free spectrum provided that the product conforms to a number of ACMA mandated standards.
As a result of this class licence approach, the ACMA has to date been largely unaware of the extent to which radio mics are used in the community because there is no one industry but an amalgam of diverse user groups such as musical theatre, TV broadcasters, churches, fitness centres, auctioneers, conference presenters and schools.
Recent activities by the AWAG and members of the industry mean that the ACMA is now fully aware of the nature and extent of wireless audio use. It should be noted that Australia is not unique in having to face this challenge and the experience we have gleaned from the US and UK has shown that their corresponding regulatory bodies have also not understood the needs and the extent of usage of wireless audio within their communities.
Therefore discussions initiated by AWAG with the ACMA and Office of the Minister for Communications have to date focused on educating the authorities as to our users needs and on a number of specific technical issues concerning radio mics and other wireless audio devices.
A second round of activity will soon begin. The focus of this second round of discussions will be on the development of a long term solution that will meet the needs of both professional and community wireless audio users, as well as, the objectives of the ACMA and DCITA with respect to the future reallocation of RF spectrum.
Even though these proposed spectrum changes are at least two years away, AWAG and the key user groups, along with the ACMA and DCITA are currently treating this issue as a priority.
Industry, key users and the authorities need certainty before any changes to the allocation of spectrum are initiated. AWAG is now fully engaged in both the regulatory and political processes necessary for us to present and argue the case on behalf of our industry and users on the role of wireless audio within our community and its importance in the continuance of our music, entertainment and information culture, as well as assisting the government in meeting its objectives.
We would like to express our thanks to those already involved and who sent submissions to the ACMA. If you have any queries or wish to assist in the deliberations going forward please contact us.