The Mystery of the 900 MHz WaveBird

It’s been going on for over a decade, there is a rumour circulating around about a 900 MHz version of the WaveBird, supposedly an early version that was later upgraded to 2.4 GHz. However as much as I searched, I’ve never found an official statement about it, not even a confirmation of its existence. Just an endless list of people asking how to identify the 900 MHz on Reddit and such, with no clear answer. However, there is one article from a reputable source that is worth looking into. Let’s jump into it.

Here we have an article from IGN, detailing a new deal between Mitsubishi and Mitsumi/Nintendo for its AHD Series 2.4GHz wireless ceramic chip antennae. It says it will give it “even more accuracy from far greater distances”. No mention of a 900 MHz predecessor. However, it gives us a chance to narrow down our search. The announcement was made on December 9th 2002, and the Platinum variant of the WaveBird was released only 4 days earlier. This means that the Grey WaveBird, released on June 10th of the same year, must have a much higher chance to be 900 MHz. As for the Club Nintendo variants, no chance as they came out in 2004 and beyond. The deal might’ve happened way before that too, the Platinum WaveBird may have never even seen the older chip.

Another amazing source that came from my friend Luberry is the original FCC authorization for the WaveBird controller. Every wireless product that comes into the US market must receive the FCC’s approval. This document have an insane amount of information that I will cover in a future article, and in this case it really clarifies the confusion. The application was filed on May 10th 2002, exactly one month before the Grey WaveBird’s release in June, with tests starting as early as February 26th 2002. It specifically states that the frequency range is between 2.4048 and 2.48 GHz. This document was never updated, and there is no other applications for a wireless controller from Mitsumi/Nintendo until the Wii remote in 2007. This means that a 900 MHz WaveBird controller was never sold in the US. Also, the FCC requires the applicant to apply the article number to the casing of the item. This means that every WaveBird controller that has this stamp (FCC ID : EW4DOLAW) cannot be anything else than 2.4 GHz. In Japan, it was exclusively 2.4 GHz as proven by this page from the official Nintendo website.

Picture courtesy of Skibs. The CE 0125 logo means that the controller can be sold on the European market and is not pertinent to its internals. The CE logo can also be found on European receivers.

However, no WaveBird with either a different FCC ID or it missing entirely was ever seen; not in the US, not in the European market, not in Japan. Even the pre-production model sent to the FCC team for approval had this stamp.

This brings us back to the first article by IGN: “The [upgrade to the Mitsubishi chip] will enable Nintendo’s Wave Bird controllers, which currently operate accurately from a distance of up to 34 feet away, even more accuracy from far greater distances.” This statement is really vague and doesn’t mention whether the WaveBird is 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz, but it does say it will upgrade its distance, which could lead to confusion.

Does this conclude that the 900 MHz variant doesn’t exist? Most likely, but where does this rumour could have originated? I found two articles by an old Nintendo news website called Nintendo World Report. In the first article about Space World 2001, where the first version of the WaveBird was shown to the public, it says: “The controller uses a version of the same technology that powers 900 mHz cordless phones.” In a subsequent article by a different author that covers the same deal as the IGN article, we can read: “[…] as the current WaveBirds use 900MHz technology, similar to the technology used in analog cordless phones.” Here it is, the slip up that caused the rumour to start.

To put the last nail in the coffin, let’s take a look back at the FCC document. Every applicant must send a list of parts used in its product, and this list was made public by the FCC. It includes the original chip used before the upgrade to the Mitsubishi one. The part we are looking for is called the TX RF LSI (large-scale integration radio-frequency transceiver), which is on page 4, and was made by MegaChips. This brings me to this article on IEEE, that is locked behind a paywall but specifies that the chip is 2.4 GHz.

In my honest opinion, the 900 MHz WaveBird was never made. Maybe as an early prototype for testing, but it for sure never hit the market. It wouldn’t make sense for Nintendo to make two incompatible wireless controllers, also without an official announcement. Hopefully this can put this strange rumour to rest, at least until I’m proven wrong.

Big thanks to Luberry for providing me with the FCC document, Skibs for looking through his WaveBirds, and the CGCC community for bringing up this question again. (cover picture from the FCC document)

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