Autor: Helmut G. Bauer

5G and wireless microphones

Why 2019 is set to be an important year for wireless microphones.

2019 will be an important year for wireless production as the course is set for which frequencies can be used in the future.

"5G Strategy for Germany" of the Federal Government

Currently, the digitization efforts of the German government and the planned auction of the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz spectra are dominating the public debate. Under the keyword 5G, the aim is to achieve nationwide coverage with at least 100 megabits.  A distinction is rarely drawn between the new 5G transmission standard and the frequencies on which it is to be used: The main thing is nationwide coverage.

All experts agree that the 3.6 GHz range is suitable for the transmission of large amounts of data, but not for nationwide coverage. The short-wave frequencies have a maximum range of one kilometre. A sea of antennas would be necessary to supply the whole of Germany. In their lawsuits against the award conditions, the mobile phone companies referred to this very point. How to be able to economically cover rural areas.

Behind the scenes, a way out is being sought to achieve nationwide coverage with high data rates. One solution is a combination of the 3.6 GHz and 600 MHz bands: 3.6 GHz for metropolitan areas and the 600 MHz band for rural areas and traffic routes. The 600 MHz band would be suitable due to its high range. But also the 700 MHz spectrum, which has already been auctioned off by mobile radio, would be an alternative and could be used for data transmission with 5G. With the solution disguised as a "compromise" involving the 600 MHz band, however, mobile radio could skilfully acquire a "frequency cushion".

The use of the 600 MHz band (the 3rd digital dividend as a result of the release of the radio spectrum in the process of the digital television transition) to solve the problem would directly affect the wireless means of production. This has just moved from the 700 MHz band to the 470 - 694 MHz range (Digital Dividend 2). The 700 MHz band has now been cleared and is to be covered with LTE. Microphone users have expected to be able to use the 470 - 694 MHz band until at least 2030 and have invested in appropriate equipment. Their confidence is based, on the one hand, on the fact that TV licences have been issued for this spectrum until 2030 and, on the other hand, on the fact that a decision on the future use of the entire TV UHF spectrum will only be taken at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23).

World Radiocommunication Conference 2019

But this could change abruptly at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), which will take place from 28 October to 22 November 2019 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. New frequencies and the allocation of spectrum previously used by wireless means of production to mobile radio are not on the agenda. In the background, however, network equipment providers and mobile communications companies are already trying to achieve the allocation of the so-called 600 MHz band (608 - 694 MHz) to mobile communications. They justify this with the worldwide harmonization of frequencies for mobile communications and the growing frequency requirements resulting from the new 5G transmission standard.

Since each WRC initially votes on its agenda, it cannot be ruled out that the USA, for example, will join forces with African countries to put the Digital Dividend 3 on the agenda. So far, it has been planned that WRC-19 will only decide which would still need to be carried out in order to decide on the future use of this particularly valuable UHF spectrum in preparation for WRC-23.

End of antenna television

The mobile radio could get help from the television broadcasters. In Switzerland and Belgium, terrestrial broadcasting of television will be discontinued in 2019 because this distribution channel has only a few viewers and the high distribution costs are therefore no longer justifiable. At the same time, Bayerischer Rundfunk is already testing the use of 5G for television transmission in the remaining TV-UHF spectrum. The result could be more programmes with less spectrum, but without a gap for wireless means of production.

5G also for wireless means of production?

Whether wireless means of production can also use 5G and thus additional spectrum remains to be seen. The "PMSE-xG" research project, which was completed last year and funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, has shown that 5G can in principle also be used with wireless microphones.
There is no guarantee that this will actually be possible in the end. Will it be possible in 2019 to supplement the 5G standard as part of the 3GPP ("3rd Generation Partnership Project Agreement") in such a way that it also meets the requirements of wireless production equipment? Can a 5G timestamp be integrated so that the devices can work synchronously? Can the battery consumption be reduced by using 5G so that the wireless microphones can also be used in production? Only when these questions are answered satisfactorily and no more questions arise will manufacturers be ready to develop devices. It will be years before users switch to this digital technology and invest. 2030 therefore seems a realistic date.

Credibility and planning security

The EU Commission and the Federal Government have repeatedly assured users of wireless production equipment that they will be able to use their equipment in the 470 - 694 MHz core spectrum until at least 2030 to ensure the functionality of the cultural and creative industries. Any deviation from this timetable would not only lead to a loss of credibility, but would also damage current plans and trigger chaos in the production industry.

The uncertainty factor here is the EU Commission. After the European elections in May 2019, a new Commission will be formed. It is to be hoped that it will feel bound by the commitments made by the current Commission and will not attempt to set new accents in favour of the mobile Internet at WRC-19.

"Master Plan PMSE"

In the past, decisions on the frequencies for wireless means of production. According to the motto "mobile radio first", Spectrum was auctioned off to mobile radio and then solutions for wireless microphones were sought. The fragmentation of the cultural and creative industries, which are often unaware of the consequences of frequency decisions and are therefore not organised, was exploited.

As a consolation, money was made available for the devices that had become worthless within the framework of "equity guidelines". A bureaucratic procedure was chosen which was not worth the expense of reimbursement.

As the demand for spectrum for events and productions continues to grow, the cultural and creative industries are now reaching their limits at many events. The situation will become even worse in 2019, when mobile communications will expand the 700 MHz band. The small, remaining TV spectrum will have to be shared between the TV stations and the wireless means of production. In many areas there will then only be a few free TV channels for radio microphones.

Since the cultural and creative industries as well as a large part of public communication depend on functioning wireless microphones, plannable frequency equipment is necessary. In order for this not to become a lottery, the Federal Government must present a "Master Plan PMSE" (Programme Making and Special Events) in 2019, from which, taking into account the growing frequency requirements for productions and events, it can be seen which spectra will be available in the long term for the use of wireless means of production. As the holder of cultural sovereignty, it will be up to the Länder to fhe orce federal government to make this happen.

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