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June 26, 2012 / advwirelesscomm

What is Narrowbanding?

There have been many notable dates in the evolution and history of land mobile radio use, and January 1, 2013, is sure to mark another one. On this date, in less than a year, all public safety, institutional, business and industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands must stop broadcasting using 25 kHz efficiency technology and instead begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology.

Narrowband FCC Regulation Graphic

Change in bandwidth mandated by FCC by January 1, 2013

This isn’t really news-breaking information. After all, the January 1, 2013 deadline is the culmination of an FCC movement that began nearly two decades ago. This effort to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum, and increased access to the spectrum for public safety and non-public safety users, was originally referred to as Refarming, but is now commonly called Narrowbanding.

As with any significant change, there are many questions surrounding the mandatory switch to Narrowbanding. You may be wondering if you need to implement digital technology in order to operate in 12.5 kHz efficiency mode. The answer is no. Licenses can operate in either analog or digital formats so long as they operate at the mandated efficiency. It is also not necessary to change frequencies or obtain new channels in making this change. Land Mobile Radio users will stay on the same channel centers. They will simply reduce the bandwidth of any channels they currently use and change the emission designator on the license.

Failure to move your system to a narrowbanding operating scheme by the deadline will put you directly in violation of the Federal Communication Commission’s rules, and you could find yourself subject to FCC enforcement action. These actions can include admonishment, penalties and fees and even the loss of your license. Additionally, old equipment may not enable you to broadcast well at the narrowbanding frequency.

To prepare your land mobile radio system for a smooth transition to the new regulations, you should research and purchase the proper technology to ensure there is no disruption in your broadcastings and communication.

(Image Source: International Association of Fire Chiefs and International Municipal Signal Association document – http://siec.wa.gov/links/files/narrowbanding.pdf )

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