Jan. 1, 2013, not only marks the beginning of the new year, but it’s also the deadline for public safety agencies to convert their land mobile radio (LMR) functionality to narrowbanding, which allows radios to use spectrum more efficiently.
 
Those that miss the deadline will need to submit applications for special waiver extensions, but they can’t claim that they weren’t given enough time, Dave Buchanan, committee chair of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council’s Spectrum Management Committee, told Government Technology last year. The FCC started this endeavor in 1991, and by 1992, the agency established its narrowbanding initiative. It asserted that all public safety and business LMRs operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands should cease using 25 kHz efficiency technology and begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology.
 
Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology will allow the creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum and support more users, according to the FCC.
 
Earlier this month, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International warned that licensees not operating at 12.5 KHz efficiency (narrowband) by the deadline could be subject to enforcement action, which may include admonishment, monetary fines or loss of license.
 
APCO called out three steps agencies can take to become compliant:
 
1. Review Your License
Public safety agencies can review their license to determine if they need to add narrowband emission at http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp. APCO’s instructions said to “type in your call sign, click on the call sign on the next page, go to the ‘Frequencies’ tab and click on ‘Emissions.’” The association added that narrowband emissions will show a bandwidth of 11K3 or lower. For example, if the emission designator is 20K0F3E (wideband analog voice), the narrowband equivalent would be 11K3F3E or lower.
 
2. Submit Your Application
APCO processes applications, which can be done on the association’s website. It recommended that agencies anticipating a large project that requires a competitive bid immediately contact its spectrum management arm, AFC. The fee to process an application to add narrowband emission equivalent to what is already shown on the license is $100 per call sign.
 
3. Waiver Requests
Agencies that are diligently working on converting to narrowband operations, but won’t meet the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline, must submit a waiver to the FCC to allow time for the FCC to review and act on it before the deadline date. Guidelines for submitting a narrowbanding waiver request to the FCC can be found at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-11-1189A1.pdf.