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Fcc narrow banding mandate for two way radios - by bearcom


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Fcc narrow banding mandate for two way radios - by bearcom

  1. 1. Executive SummaryThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initially setthe narrowbanding initiative in motion in 1992 with the ultimateobjective of increasing capacity and efficiency for the industrial/business and public safety radio pools in the private land mobileradio services category. Specifically, it set forth that all “Part 90”business, educational, industrial, public safety, and local and stategovernment two-way radio system licensees currently operatinglegacy wideband (25 kHz) voice dispatch or data/supervisorycontrol and data acquisition radio systems in the 150-174 MHz(VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) bands must make the transition tothe narrowband technology (12.5 kHz).Users who do not make the switch by January 1, 2013, face theloss of their communication capabilities. Although the migrationdeadline seems far off, it is necessary for organizations to plan wellin advance.This white paper describes the narrowbanding process and how itaffects companies, public safety organizations, and other entities.It also discusses the FCC deadlines and suggests options to helpusers efficiently and effectively handle the migration process.WHITE PAPER:Meeting the FCC NarrowbandingMandate for Two-Way RadiosExecutive Summary . . . . . . 1Understanding theNarrowbanding Challenge . . 2What the FCC Requires . . . 2Why Spectrum Efficiencyis Important . . . . . . . . . . 3Who is Impacted andWhat Will It Cost? . . . . . . . 4The Conversion Process . . . 4Start Planning Now . . . . . . 5Frequently AskedQuestions . . . . . . . . . . . 6Table of
  2. 2. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way RadiosUnderstanding the Narrowbanding ChallengeThe best way to think about the Federal CommunicationsCommission (FCC) and its “narrowbanding” initiative for two-wayradios is to put it in terms of a music concert. Let’s say you have anevent where there are more people who want to attend than thereare tickets. The concert promoter, in such a case, has two choices.The resolution can be left to the secondary market—in this example,the scalpers and ticket brokers—to dictate the price of the ticketsto concert goers. Or the promoter can add another concert date,increasing supply to meet the growing demand.In this analogy, the FCC is like the concert promoter, the spectrumcapacity is like the concert date, and the commercial, educational,and government users of two-way radios are like the concertgoers. The FCC wants to increase the capacity—or spectrumefficiency—for these users, and the recent advances in two-wayradio technology have created the wherewithal to make availablemore channels for wireless communication—or to continue theanalogy, more concert dates.What the FCC RequiresThe FCC set the narrowbanding initiative in motion in 1992 withthe ultimate objective of increasing capacity and efficiency for theindustrial/business and public safety radio pools in the privateland mobile radio services category. Specifically, it set forth thatall “Part 90” business, educational, industrial, public safety, andlocal and state government two-way radio system licenseescurrently operating legacy wideband (25 kHz) voice dispatch ordata/supervisory control and data acquisition radio systems in the150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) bands must makethe transition to the narrowband technology (12.5 kHz).Users who do not make the switch by January 1, 2013, face the lossof their communication capabilities. Although the migration deadlineseems far off, the FCC is already moving ahead:●● The FCC will not grant applications for new voice operations orapplications to expand the authorized contour of existing stationsthat use 25 kHz channels. Only narrowband authorizations willbe granted.●● The FCC will prohibit manufacture or importation of newequipment that operates on 25 kHz channels. This will reducethe availability of new equipment for legacy radio systems andwill affect how agencies and companies maintain and upgradeolder systems.“The transition to 12.5 kHznarrowband will result inmore spectrum capacity forpublic safety agencies andcommercial users in theVHF and UHF bands byincreasing the efficiency ofspectrum use.”Jamie Barnett, Jr.ChiefFCC Public Safety andHomeland Security Bureau“The FCC finally got to apoint where it recognizedthat, with advances intechnology, it could createmore spectrum and drivepotential subscriptionrevenue. The demand wasalready there.”Mark BehrendsNational Sales ManagerLM Business and IndustryIcom
  3. 3. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way RadiosWhy Spectrum Efficiency is Important“The purpose of the FCC narrowbanding mandate is to promotemore efficient use of the VHF and UHF land mobile radio bands,”says Mike Gray, Vice President for LMR Sales at Vertex Standard,a leading two-way radio manufacturer. “Currently, these bands areso congested that often there is not enough spectrum availablefor licensees to expand their existing systems or implement newsystems. Requiring licensees to convert their radio systems tooperate on narrower channel bandwidths will allow additionalchannels to exist within the same spectrum.”NARROWBANDLEGACY12.5kHz25kHzIndustry leaders also expect the conversion to narrowband to sparkthe development and use of new technologies. “The narrowbandinginitiative presents a win-win opportunity for everyone,” notes JerryDenham, President and CEO of BearCom. “We are in constantdialogue with our manufacturing partners, who tell us that they arealready in the development stages for a number of new productswhich will take full advantage of the narrowbanded spectrum.”Denham adds that the litany of new products behind the curtainmake it all the more important that business users engage apartner that is closely monitoring technological advances. “Thenarrowbanding initiative represents a double-edged sword forthose entities that rely on wireless communications. You can takeadvantage of it and become a much more efficient user of suchtechnology. Or you can simply ignore the initiative, wait untilthe last possible minute, and squander the potential benefits ofnew technology.”The advantages are clear to the FCC’s Ruth Milkman, who isChief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. She3“I’m very pleased that thecommission has issued apublic notice and that theyhave made it very clearabout the consequence offailing to meet the 2013narrowbanding date. Thiswill assist the coordinatorsand others in convincing thelicensees that they have totake this seriously.”Ralph HallerChairmanNational Public SafetyTelecommunications Councilwww.BearCom.comNarrowbanding allows additional channels to exist in the same spectrum.SPECTRUM COMPARISON
  4. 4. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way Radiossaid publicly this summer that she envisions that “voice networkcapacity could eventually quadruple, enabling users, includingpublic safety agencies in particular, to take full advantage ofthe capabilities of existing technologies to provide high-qualitynarrowband voice communications in these lower spectrum bands.”Who is Impacted and What Will It Cost?Land mobile radio (also known as Part 90) systems operating at 25kHz efficiency in the following bands are affected:●● VHF: 150–174 MHz●● UHF: 421–512 MHzLow-band radio systems (those operating below 150 MHz) arenot affected.For users who purchased two-way radios after 1998, chancesare those devices already have the ability to operate in both wideand narrowband modes. The only cost to those users would bereprogramming and relicensing. Also, depending on the make andmodel of the radio, the cost of narrowbanding could be minimal tothe user.In a recent notice, the FCC implored users to “assess” currentequipment and start planning. “To prepare for the migration, publicsafety agencies should start assessing their radio systems andplanning for replacements or upgrades,” it wrote. “They shouldinventory their current equipment to ascertain what can beconverted to 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replaced beforeJanuary 1, 2013.” Most new equipment has the capability for both25 kHz and 12.5 kHz operation, because any VHF/UHF radioequipment accepted by the FCC after February 14, 1997, had tohave 12.5 kHz capability.The Conversion ProcessWith help from a qualified two-way radio communicationsconsultant, users can begin the internal business process ofbudgeting for and procuring any new narrowband-capablereplacement radios, as well as creating a wideband-to-narrowbandconversion plan that embraces the appropriate logistical andimplementation strategies.The next step is to apply for the appropriate FCC license. This,however, is not a slam dunk, according to the FCC. “An agencythat is licensed for a 25 kHz wide channel is not guaranteed two4“Most two-way radiomanufacturers understandthat this is a significantopportunity to increaserevenues by selling newproducts. But it will notbe easy, since they areoperating in a free market,where the business userhas all the power to decidewhich product to purchase.That’s why you will continueto see new advances inradio technology.”Hugh JohnstonPurchasing andProduct
  5. 5. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way Radios12.5 kHz channels,” the FCC wrote in its recent notice. “Licenseeswill have to justify to the FCC why they need additional channels.Consideration of applications for new narrowband licenses willfollow the same process as a new license application. As agenciesmigrate to narrowband operation, however, the pool of availablefrequencies will increase.”Given the challenges, a two-way radio consultant has almostbecome a necessity. If the user already works closely with a radioprovider, he/she may not need to look any further.An effective consultant should be able to demonstrate all of thefollowing attributes:●● Long history in RF communications●● Certified technicians and engineers●● Ability to assist with FCC frequency coordination, regardless ofthe size of the user’s operation and radio fleetStart Planning NowIan Torok, Director of Technical Services at BearCom, suggests thatusers should be careful not to wait until the last minute to developa migration plan to narrowband systems. “As the 2013 deadlinelooms closer, wireless providers will be busy assisting their currentand new customers with new system designs and new radiopurchases. Also, when the deadline passes and users are caughtoperating out of compliance, they risk losing their current FCClicense, and reapplying can be costly and very time consuming,”says Torok.Operating out of license and out of regulation will be costly. “TheFCC has yet to specify how much,” Torok notes.Torok recommends following these steps:●● Take inventory. Review current equipment to determine whatcan be converted to 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replacedbefore January 1, 2013. Most new equipment has the capabilityfor both 25 kHz and 12.5 kHz operation because any VHF/UHFradio equipment accepted by the FCC after February 14, 1997,had to have 12.5 kHz capability. Contact your narrowbandingconsultant to determine if your radio equipment is capable ofoperating in the 12.5 kHz mode.●● Develop budget requirements, explore funding options, andestablish a conversion and implementation schedule. Includestudies to ensure 12.5 kHz operation continues to provide similar5“It’s very important for usersto know what happens ifthey don’t do this, becausewe’ve had questions alongthat line. The FCC kept itsoptions open in terms ofwhat happens. But the FCCwill enforce compliance.”Al IttnerSenior Manager of Spectrumand Regulatory
  6. 6. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way Radioscoverage. Once you determine possible equipment conversionneeds, start developing funding and conversion schedules.Remember to coordinate your conversion with neighboringagencies and/or other affected organizations to help maintaincontinued interoperability.●● Obtain new or modified licenses. In addition to operating onnarrowbanded equipment, users must be properly licensed bythe FCC with the correct emissions designator. Contact yournarrowbanding consultant for assistance.The FCC was very stern in a recent public notice about theconsequences of not abiding by the narrowbanding initiative,asking the following question—May a station that does not meetthe January 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline operate after thatdate on a secondary basis?—and then answering it: “No. As ofJanuary 1, 2013, the Commission’s rules will prohibit industrial/business and public safety radio pool licensees in the 150-174MHz and 421-512 MHz bands from operating with widebandchannels (unless their equipment meets the narrowband efficiencystandard), even if the license still lists a wideband emissiondesignator. Operation in violation of the Commission’s rules maysubject licensees to enforcement action, including admonishments,monetary forfeitures, and/or license revocation, as appropriate.”It then offered the following cautionary advice to the public safetysector in particular. “Public safety agencies need to aggressivelydevelop a strategy to meet narrowband deadlines to avoidcancellation of existing wideband FCC authorizations. Although themigration deadline may seem far off, the long lead time and interimdeadlines make it necessary for agencies to plan well in advance.”BearCom stands ready to assist users with the challengeof migrating their two-way radio systems to meet the FCC’snarrowbanding requirements, whether it be compliance analysis,license preparation and modification, or equipment upgrades.Frequently Asked Questions Will I need to change the frequency band I’ve been using tobe compliant with the FCC mandate? No. Narrowbanding does not require moving to anotherfrequency band. Licensees stay on the same channel center(s)but reduce the bandwidth of the channel(s) currently used from25 kHz to 12.5 kHz.6“Users should first verify thatthey have a current and validFCC Part 90 radio stationlicense and then create adatabase of their equipment.This will save time and effort,maximizing the use of thenarrowbanding consultant.For those users who needhelp with the narrowbandingprocess, BearCom hasan on-staff FCC licensingexpert and several systemssolution specialists who arestanding by to assist them.”Jerry DenhamPresident &
  7. 7. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way Radios If I need to upgrade my equipment, do I need to implementdigital equipment? No. The 12.5 kHz narrowband equipment is available in bothanalog and digital formats (e.g., Project 25). After January 1,2013, analog and digital equipment must operate on a 12.5kHz channel or achieve equivalent efficiency. What exactly does it mean to use technology that achievesequivalent efficiency? For voice applications, the FCC efficiency standard canbe met if equipment either operates on a 12.5 kHz channelor transmits at least one voice channel per 12.5 kHz ofbandwidth. This means equipment operating on a 25 kHzchannel bandwidth is compliant if the equipment supports twoor more voice channels. Has the FCC established a schedule for mandatory migrationto 6.25 kHz bandwidth? No. The FCC has not yet set any date by which licensees mustoperate in 6.25 kHz efficiency. How can I determine if I have a valid FCC license? Contact BearCom headquarters or your local branch for expertadvice or assistance. If I currently have a license for a 25 kHz channel, will Iautomatically be entitled to license two 12.5 kHz channels? No. Your 12.5 kHz channel will remain on the same channelcenter. Your current 25 kHz channel will not be split into two12.5 kHz channels. You will need to justify and apply for theadditional 12.5 kHz channels to the FCC through a certifiedfrequency coordinator, such as BearCom. What will happen if I fail to comply with the FCCnarrowbanding mandate? Can I continue to operate at 25 kHzefficiency on a secondary status after January 1, 2013? No. The FCC will prohibit licensees from operating non-compliant equipment on a secondary basis. Non-compliancewill be considered a violation subject to FCC EnforcementBureau action, which may include admonishment, monetaryfines, and loss of license.7By January 1, 2013:●● All licensees must convertto and operate in at least12.5 kHz efficiency.●● Equipment capable ofoperating only at 25kHz efficiency must bereplaced.●● Existing certifieddual-mode (25/12.5 kHz)equipment must have the25 kHz mode disabled viasoftware.“Embrace the benefits thatthe FCC’s narrowbandingmandates offer you.Narrowbanding is more thanjust obligatory compliancedates. There are realopportunities to review yourwireless communicationrequirements and enhancesystem objectives throughnew technologies andproduct feature sets that arenow available.”Mark CrosbyPresident & CEOEnterprise Wireless
  8. 8. WHITE PAPER: Meeting the FCC Narrowbanding Mandate for Two-Way Radios Will migration to 12.5 kHz change my system coverage area? Maybe. Conduct tests during conversion to ensure your systemcontinues to provide similar coverage. Contact BearCom tohelp you determine if transmitter site changes or additions willbe required to compensate for possible coverage change. I noticed that the FCC recently eliminated the interimnarrowbanding deadlines that were scheduled to take effect atthe end of this year. What was the FCC trying to accomplishwith these deadlines in the first place? The FCC had initially decreed that, after January 1, 2011,it would not grant applications for new voice operations orapplications to expand the authorized contour of existingstations that use 25 kHz channels. In addition, it had planned,after that date, to prohibit the manufacture or importation ofnew equipment which operates on 25 kHz channels. The goalwas to reduce the availability of new equipment for legacyradio systems.8BearCom HeadquartersP.O. Box 559001Dallas, TX 75355800.527.1670BearCom provides a broad line of high-performance wirelesscommunications products, services, and complete mobilitysolutions. Founded in 1981, BearCom is America’s only nationwidedealer of wireless equipment, serves customers from 26 branchoffices located throughout the U.S., has several affiliated officesaround the world, and employs approximately 400 people. For moreinformation, visit© 2010 BearCom. All rights reserved. The BearCom nameand logo are registered trademarks of BearCom. The namesand logos of any other companies or products mentionedherein may be the trademarks of their respective owners inthe United States, Canada, and/or other countries.ATLANTA, GA800.417.6272AUSTIN, TX800.541.9333BOSTON, MA877.301.2327CHANTILLY, VA800.955.0003CHICAGO, IL800.900.2327COLUMBUS, OH800.782.5458COSTA MESA, CA800.513.2660DALLAS, TX800.449.6171DENVER, CO877.312.2327DETROIT, MI877.475.2327FT. LAUDERDALE, FL800.731.2327HOUSTON, TX800.856.2022LAS VEGAS, NV800.535.2489LOS ANGELES, CA800.546.2327NASHVILLE, TN877.454.2327NEW YORK, NY & NJ888.841.3600ORLANDO, FL877.640.2327PHILADELPHIA, PA877.319.2327PORTLAND, OR888.371.2327RIVERSIDE, CA800.314.2327SACRAMENTO, CA866.612.2330SAN DIEGO, CA877.706.2327SAN FRANCISCO, CA800.953.2327SEATTLE, WA800.313.2327ST. PAUL, MN877.650.2327WASHINGTON, DC877.895.2327www.BearCom.comFor more information about meeting the FCC narrowbandingmandate for two-way radios, please contact BearCom at800.527.1670 or