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The FCC Narrowbanding Mandate

January 2, 2013, the FCC will require that all existing licenses in the Land Mobile Radio and UHF spectrum band use the 12.5 kHz or less.
Frequency Wave

There is a critically important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate phasing in soon that can greatly affect your organization’s overall radio communications. The mandate is designed to benefit radio users in the VHF and UHF frequency bands. If your organization currently uses two-way radio communications, you must pay particular attention to narrowbanding. Failure to comply with the FCC’s Narrowbanding Mandate may result in loss of FCC license, or large fines.

The Narrowbanding Mandate refers to the requirement by the FCC that all existing licensees in the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Part 90 VHF 150-170 Megahertz (MHz) and UHF 421-512 MHz spectrum band use equipment designed to operate on channel bandwidths of 12.5 kilohertz (kHz) or less or which meets a specific efficiency standard. 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands are not affected by this mandate. Licensees must convert their existing wideband (25 kHz) systems to narrowband (12.5 kHz) operation, and operate in a 12.5 KHz efficiency standard. Any equipment not capable of operating on channels of 12.5 kHz or less must be replaced. If FCC licenses are not modified for narrowband operation by the end of 2012, the license will expire.

Below are some myths and FAQs:

  • Does narrowbanding require me to implement digital equipment? No. Licensees can operate in either analog or digital formats as long as you operate at 12.5 kHz efficiency.
  • How do I upgrade my existing 12.5 kHz capable equipment? In most cases, radio programming software can be used to reprogram the subscriber and base station radios to operate at 12.5 kHz. Typically, infrastructure site equipment does not require any changes.
  • Will migration to 12.5 kHz change my system coverage area? Possibly — conduct tests during conversion to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage.
  • Does narrowbanding require me to change frequencies or obtain new channels? No. Licensees migrating from 25 kHz channels to 12.5 kHz channels stay on the same channel centers. You only reduce the bandwidth of your current channel and change the emission designator on your license.
  • Will I receive two 12.5 kHz channels when I change from my currently licensed 25 kHz channel? No. As noted above, you remain on the same 25 kHz channel center, not splitting the channel into two 12.5 kHz channels. If you need additional capacity, you will need to apply for additional 12.5 kHz channels to the FCC through your frequency coordinator.
  • Has the FCC established a schedule for mandatory migration to 6.25 kHz efficiency? No. The FCC has not set any date by which licensees must operate in 6.25 kHz efficiency. The current mandate only requires users to migrate to 12.5 kHz efficiency by Jan. 1, 2013.

Now is the time to prepare to meet mandate

The deadline is approaching quickly — the mandate will be in effect at the end of next year. Your license must be modified for narrowband, and your equipment must meet the 12.5 KHz efficiency standard.

Please take these steps:

  • Complete an inventory of your radios to assess what equipment is capable of operating in 12.5 kHz and what equipment will need to be replaced. The FCC required all radios certified since 1997 to include a 12.5 kHz efficiency mode, so most new equipment likely is dual mode 25/12.5 kHz that can be converted via software. Radios may need to be reprogrammed. Others may need to be replaced.
  • Consider that operational coverage may diminish after analog narrowbanding. Conduct tests during conversion to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage.
  • Establish a funding plan, as well as a conversion and implementation schedule.
  • Coordinate your conversion with neighboring agencies or facilities to facilitate continued interoperability if needed.

If you are unsure that your communications equipment will be compliant, contact us today at 888.44.TOTAL and schedule an assessment with our experts.

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