The future viability of large-scale events and live productions is in the balance ahead of this year's ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23). The decision, to be taken later this year, on how a significant portion of UHF spectrum can be used in future could make life very complicated for a sector that is already forced to use available spectrum as efficiently as possible.
The frequency band 470–694 MHz is key for wireless audio production equipment referred to as audio PMSE – programme making and special events – such as wireless microphones and audio links. While the use of audio PMSE equipment by broadcasters is quite well known, the applications go far beyond programme production. Audio PMSE equipment is equally important for online media, the wider creative and content production sectors, and political, sports and cultural live events. Other key users include tradeshows, conferences and educational, community and religious events. All of them may be affected by a WRC-23 decision on the future use of this spectrum, in particular if the available spectrum for PMSE is further reduced.
A new report from the EBU (Technical Report 075) explains why the UHF band is so critical for audio PMSE equipment. It is available across Europe and beyond, its physical properties are highly suited to the relevant applications and it provides substantial capacity. Importantly, it has well-established sharing conditions for PMSE and DTT services that use the same frequencies and it is well supported by equipment manufacturers. As a result, this band is extensively used by EBU Members and other PMSE users with tens of thousands of professional equipment units in use in most countries.
Other frequency bands available for audio PMSE applications don't provide the same advantages. They are subject to various technical, operational, or regulatory constraints, including limited capacity or availability, less suitable physical properties or lack of industry support and equipment. The PMSE sector will thus continue to rely heavily on access the UHF band far into the future.
Any change to the current regulatory arrangement could have far-reaching negative consequences for cultural life and significant parts of the economy, in particular large live events and the supporting services.
(Photo: Chaz McGregor)