Attention All FCC Part 90 VHF & UHF Radio System Managers & Licensees
In December of 2004 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that all Part 90 Business, Educational, Industrial, Public Safety, and State and Local Government VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) private PLMR (Private Land Mobile Radio) system licensees convert from what has been known as "wide-band" (25 KHz) operation to "narrow-band" (12.5 KHz or equivalent) operation by January 1, 2013.
Is YOUR Private Radio System "Narrow-band" Ready and FCC Compliant?
In a nutshell, this mandate requires that all currently deployed 25 KHz "wide-band" only conventional and trunked VHF and UHF two-way hand-held portables, vehicle-mounted mobiles, dispatcher stations, wireless data, telemetry, or SCADA links, (called subscriber radios), and any associated 25 KHz conventional base or trunked repeaters or relay stations (called infrastructure radios ) be replaced with 12.5 KHz "narrow-band" (or equivalent) equipment prior to the 2013 date in order to continue legal use of your licensed radio frequencies beyond that date. In addition, your FCC license(s) must be modified to certify that changes in the emissions of your system have been made. Non-compliance will result in the cancellation of your license(s) by the FCC.
Contrary to what some in the industry might be telling you, the mandate doesnot require licensees to change to new radio frequencies (or channels) or to another band, nor does it require moving from analog to digital or P-25, or, from a conventional to a trunked radio system. However, in certain situations or circumstances unique to individual licensees, these alternatives may be options to carefully and fully explore with the assistance of a qualified radio or wireless communications professional. The mandate also does not mean that all your radios must be relegated to the recycling pile; just the soon-to-be non-compliant ones along with some relatively minor re-programming of others.
Many of our clients - as your company or organization should and may be doing - have already begun their "narrow-band" migration process by replacing older "wide-band" only subscriber radios with dual-mode subscriber radios (those capable of both 25 KHz and/or 12.5 KHz operation) as they add new radios to their system or, as older radios are lost, damaged beyond repair, or otherwise removed from service. While this strategy is a practical, cost-effective approach for many, particularly those with large numbers of subscriber radios in their fleets or those with multiple radio frequencies, bases and/or repeaters in their system, this method only addresses the first step of a multi-step process.
Unless a radio system is initially implemented as a narrow-band compliant system, as most completely new systems have been over the last 8-10 years, it is important to realize that many - if not all - dual mode replacement subscriber radios sold into pre-mandate, or older, conventional or trunked VHF/UHF radio systems over this same time period have typically been programmed for "wide-band" only operation - not narrowband operation. This "best practices" method was done to maintain compatibility with existing "wide-band" subscriber and infrastructure radios in those systems. (NOTE: the mixing of "wide-band" and "narrow-band" radios on the same frequency of a system is generally not encouraged nor recommended due to technical differences and characteristics in the transmitted and received audio of each that can potentially render most voice - and especially data - transmissions between "wide-band" and "narrow-band" radios unintelligible, distorted, or unreliable). The "best practices" method also meant that the expense and logistics involved in an "all at once" or "forklift" deployment of both subscriber radios and infrastructure with "narrow-band" equipment could be deferred till another day as the year 2013 seemed a long way off.
Because of this, in more instances than one might think, the need to address the deferred replacement of system infrastucture radios may have inadvertantly been overlooked or even forgotten by some licensees or radio system managers. This is particularly true when it comes to the many smaller business, educational, industrial, city, state, municipal government, and public safety users of two way radio who typically don't keep up with current FCC Rules or the responsibilities that go along with being a Part 90 licensee, and, who quite often simply take the use and benefit of their radio systems for granted.
Thus, until your entire radio system - including all subscriber radios and all infrastructure radios - have been either replaced and/or reprogrammed to operate in the "narrow-band" mode, your radio system is most likely still operating in the "wide-band" mode- which brings us to the next steps that need to be taken in the migration process.
Do you have an implementation plan - and a budget - to address the final steps necessary to complete the "narrow-band" migration process and become fully FCC compliant? These steps include the replacement of any remaining 25 KHz subscriber radios still being used, the procurement and installation of any "narrow-band" base stations or repeaters or other infrastructure if needed, the coordinated re-programming of all subscriber and infrastructure radios to "narrow-band" operation, and, the modification of your radio station license to reflect new emission designators.
If you do not, we can help! We urge you to contact us ASAP for straight answers to your questions and informed suggestions on how we can be of service to your company or organization, particularly when budgets will need to be prepared or, where day-to-day operations dependant on uninterrupted radio communications may be jeopardized by further delays in your migration to "narrow-band" operation and compliance. Non-compliance will result in cancellation of licenses by the FCC.
Companies and organizations who value and depend upon their Part 90 two-way voice and data radio communications systems are advised to not wait until the last minute to begin (or to complete) the narrow-banding process. If they do so, they are risking not only the use of their current radio frequency(s), but the return-on-investment (ROI) and benefits gained from the use of their private radio system and equipment as well.
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