FCC accepts Montville businessman's suggestion for radio frequency rules

Montville — An Uncasville resident is helping to shape federal regulations for the use of radio frequencies by the manufacturers of wireless microphones.

Joe Ciaudelli, the founder of an Uncasville-based company that specializes in electro-magnetic wave technology, counts the German microphone maker Sennheiser among his clients.

Because the Federal Communications Commission recently repurposed a range of radio frequencies for broadband Internet use, most wireless microphones made to use those frequencies — used by people from television hosts to church pastors — soon will be obsolete.

As more Internet-connected devices that carry sound and data across a limited number of frequencies enter the market, Ciaudelli said Wednesday, finding new ways of efficiently using the finite number frequencies available for other devices is becoming a more important part of the FCC’s job.

“Everything is going to be connected, so that you can control your refrigerator temperature while you're lying on the beach in the Bahamas through your cellphone,” he said.

But those capabilities need space on the spectrum of radio frequencies, and non-Internet uses of radio waves — such as wireless microphones — are going to have to move by 2020 to somewhere else on the radio spectrum.

The new rules will push microphones out of a range of higher-frequency bands that will only be available to Internet companies such as Verizon and AT&T — pushing manufacturers to make new microphones that transmit over frequencies between 169 and 172 megahertz.

In August 2015, the FCC, which regulates the use of radio frequencies for all devices and uses in the United States, released new regulations outlining the best ways for microphone manufacturers to adjust to a new range of frequencies.

Wireless microphones generally are sold in bundles of four — to best accommodate a band, for example — but each of the microphones can’t use exactly the same frequency or they’ll interfere with one another, Ciaudelli said.

The more than 1,000 microphones used at the Super Bowl, for example, all have to be on unique frequencies.

There are ideal combinations of frequencies for each microphone being used in one location to minimize interference — and avoid that terrible buzzing noise when frequencies overlap — and Ciaudelli thought he had a better way to coordinate those combinations.

After some “intense number crunching,” Ciaudelli said he found a way to maximize the number of compatible channels that can operate on that range of frequencies at the same time, and filed a petition to the FCC in December 2015 asking the agency to adopt his proposal. He likened it to coordinating a large number of cars in lanes on a highway so that they don't collide.

A year and a half later, he heard back: the FCC liked his plan, and so did multiple other microphone manufacturers who wrote to the FCC in support of it.

It wasn’t the first time Ciaudelli has advocated for Sennheiser, which makes the microphones used on television shows like "The Voice," he said. He’s run his business out of Montville for 15 years, he said, and has become an active player in the radio frequency regulation game.

“I’ve gone to the FCC many times ... and explained the needs within our society for wireless mics,” he said.

So he wasn’t surprised when the commission decided to adopt his suggestion last month.

“I felt pretty confident that I had a strong technical case,” he said.

The FCC is charged with regulating frequencies for hundreds of different kinds of devices, and just hadn’t allocated resources to developing recommendations specifically for products such as Sennheiser’s.

“I guess I’m a bigger nerd than they are,” he said. “I was laser-focused on wireless microphones.”

The rules went into effect immediately, but won’t affect the manufacturing of microphones for several years. The new regulations will help Sennheiser as it designs the new generation of microphones, but also will apply to all microphone manufacturers.

“In a broader sense, I like to think I’m representing a larger community,” he said.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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