A wide variety of wireless devices, microphones and video cameras for instance, are needed to produce audiovisual programmes. They are often referred to collectively as PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) systems and divided into two major subsets which are wireless audio (audio PMSE) and video (video PMSE) devices used by professionals, in particular for film shoots, TV programme production, live entertainment or major events.
Audio PMSE refers to various devices such as various types of wireless microphones and onstage monitor systems) for the production of TV, theatrical and operatic content as well as for covering media and sports events. In France, such equipment is used under a general authorisation framework ensuring the possibility to access a number of specific frequencies in compliance with technical conditions set out by ARCEP. With the exception of two bands, harmonised by the EU in 2014, PMSE spectrum available across Europe and licensing systems vary from one country to another. Currently, audio PMSE operates mainly in the TV UHF band. Analog wireless microphones are still in use today as they offer low latency which is essential for sound feedback and synchronisation with actors’ gestures.
Audio PMSE, operating in the white spaces left by TV broadcasting, has come up against successive reconfigurations of the UHF band intended to clear the 800 MHz and later 700 MHz bands for use in mobile communications. Before 2010, the 470-862 MHz band was accessible, but now only the 470-694 MHz range is available, meaning that 168 MHz worth of spectrum was lost. And yet PMSE needs are growing because of increasingly complex productions. Between 2003 and 2012, TV production needs increased more than six fold and there was a further increase of 88% between 2009 and 2012.
There is also a significant increase in demand when major media events take place, such as the Tour de France, the 24 Heures du Mans and Roland-Garros, the international tennis tournament. Over the past ten years, the Tour de France has seen a continuous increase in the number of audio PMSE frequency requests, rising from 365 frequencies in 2007 to 687 in 2016 (+88%). There was a similar increase for Roland-Garros, which grew from 187 audio PMSE frequencies in 2007 to 416 in 2016 (+122%). ANFR, acting under delegation of powers from ARCEP, plays a key role in the coordination of these frequencies and allocating temporary frequency authorisations for the duration of the event concerned.
Frequencies above 1 GHz are still available for specific applications, for instance for use in conference rooms where the environment is predictable and latency due to digitising (and therefore signal encoding) is acceptable.
Video PMSE refers to the equipment used for transporting video signals from portable wireless cameras, either ground-based or aboard land or airborne vehicles. Unlike audio PMSE devices, the use of frequencies for this type of equipment is granted through individual temporary or permanent authorisations.
In France, demand may on occasion exceed capacity as identified in the TNRBF (Tableau national de répartition des bandes de fréquences/National table of frequency allocations) for that purpose. Negotiation between ANFR and assignees is then required to access the bands involved and thus satisfy demand on a local and temporary basis.