Jands , members of the Australian Wireless Audio Group (AWAG), discuss the effects of the digital switchover set by Communications Minister Senator Conroy for 2013.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), located in Washington DC, announced its ‘Proposal for the Prohibition of Low Power Auxiliary Stations in the 700MHz band After the Digital Transition.’ If this proposal is mandated by the US government, the FCC will prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or shipment of devices that operate as low power auxiliary stations, including wireless audio transmitters. Manufacturers are working with the FCC and regulators in other major markets whose decisions are still pending, including Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia, to develop a solution for users.
This proposal by the FCC has not been mandated yet and will only apply to the USA. Additionally, wireless audio products used in the US have not been covered by a class licence system such as that which currently operates in Australia.
When using a compliant product, the class licence in Australia provides wireless audio product users with a degree of protection. The system in the US currently requires users occupying the 700MHz band to apply for individual licences. A large number of users in the US have not obtained licences and therefore, the FCC does not have a true indication of the scope of use of these products. The Australian regulators are fully engaged with the Australian Wireless Audio Group (AWAG) and are monitoring overseas developments and examining their application here in Australia.
The Australian Wireless Audio Group, through the Australian Music Association (AMA), has been working to ensure the needs of wireless audio users are being understood as the consultation processes currently underway are defining future spectrum policy here in Australia.
Susan Twartz of AWAG says that the digital switchover in 2013 means that Australia will be making changes after the major markets of Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. Australian users also have the benefit of a well-informed, united industry body in the form of the AWAG.
The AWAG’s purpose is two fold. Firstly, they want to ensure that the requirements of users are considered in the spectrum planning process. This will be achieved through continued representation and involvement in industry working committees and through dialogue with the Government and its key authorities such as the ACMA and the Digital Switchover Taskforce.
Secondly, AWAG are working to ensure that future spectrum plans in Australia follow one of the other major overseas markets. Australia would not benefit in developing a unique solution, one that, for instance, requires manufacturers to develop unique products for the market. AWAG have an indication of the way the US environment will probably be shaped and await a resolution in the US and an indication from the ACMA of their response to these developments.
The AWAG commissioned Windsor Place Consulting report entitled, Untethering the Microphone, demonstrates the benefits of spectrum use by the class licensed wireless audio products in Australia, including radio microphones, in ear monitoring and communications systems.
While the report is not yet available to the public, AWAG have been briefing key Government stakeholders such as the Digital Switchover Taskforce, the entity responsible for the switch to digital TV, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Network and Spectrum Planning Division of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) and at a ministerial level.
Amongst the reports key findings were quantifications of the importance of wireless technology to the Australian economy:
- The quantified benefits indicate that users of wireless audiovisual devices derive a benefit ranging from $80 to $115 million per year from the use of these devices
- Industries (entertainment, tourism, conventions and fitness) that use wireless audio products represent $32 billion annually to the Australian economy, providing employment for more than 130,000 people
- Additional social benefits derived through the use of these devices in education, religious observance as well as a host of non-commercial community activities
In short, the report demonstrates that wireless audio products provide a substantial economic benefit to the country.
A second document, a series of 16 case studies on the use of these devices in a range of settings, has been developed to assist stakeholders understand how and why these devices are being used by each of the key user groups.
Both the ACMA and the DBCDE have stated to the AWAG that the remainder of 2008 and most of 2009 will be dedicated to a comprehensive stakeholder process. The AWAG continue to meet with regulators and stakeholder groups, ensuring that the needs of users are considered in the decisions regarding the digital switchover in Australia. The AWAG are monitoring developments in international markets and endeavouring to interpret the ramifications for industries in Australia.