The FCC Narrowbanding Mandate:
What You Need to Know to Assure Radio Communications in 2013
What is Narrowbanding?
Private land mobile radio (LMR) systems - including municipal
government, State, and local public safety systems - use blocks of
radio spectrum called channels. Historically, LMR systems have used
25 kHz-wide channels. In December 2004, the Federal Communications
Commission mandated that all private LMR users operating below 512
MHz move to 12.5 kHz narrowband voice channels and highly efficient
data channel operations by January 1, 2013. This migration
complements a National Telecommunications and Information
Administration mandate for more rapid Federal agency migration to
12.5 kHz narrowband operation by January 1, 2008. The earlier
Federal deadline affects State and local FCC licensees that
interface or share frequencies with Federal radio systems.
Using narrowband channels will ensure that agencies take
advantage of more efficient technology and, by reducing channel
width, will allow additional channels to exist within the same
spectrum space, as illustrated in figure 1.
Figure 1: Narrowband channels allow additional
channels to exist in the same spectrum.
Who is Affected:
The FCC Narrowbanding rules affect all operators of land mobile
radios (LMR) that use channels between:
- 150 and 174 MHz
- 421 and 512 MHz
Deadlines / Key Dates:
To phase in the migration deadline of January 1, 2013, the FCC
has established interim deadlines.
The first important deadline is January 1, 2011
(Manufacturer Date Certain) after which:
- The FCC will not grant applications for new voice operations
or applications to expand the authorized contour of existing
stations that use 25 kHz channels. Only narrowband authorizations
will be granted.
- The FCC will prohibit manufacture or importation of new
equipment that operates on 25 kHz channels. This will reduce the
availability of new equipment for legacy radio systems and will
affect how agencies maintain and upgrade older systems.
- New equipment submitted for FCC type-acceptance must be
6.25/6.25 kHz (e)
- New system applications must be 12.5 kHz or less
- No 25 kHz system expansion permitted
- MOTOTRBO™ meets this requirement
January 1, 2013 (Licensee Date Certain)
- All existing licenses must operate on channels with a
bandwidth of 12.5 KHz or less (narrowband). Failure to comply
with the January 1, 2013 deadline results in cancellation of
- I/B and PS 150-512 MHz incumbents must migrate to 12.5/12.5
kHz (e) or less
- It is unclear what happens to licensed 25 kHz systems after
this date certain
Land Mobile Radio Systems still using wideband channels as of
January 1, 2013, risk the following:
- Loss of Radio Communications
- Substantial FCC Fines
- Revocation of FCC Licenses
Planning for the Move to Narrowband
Land Mobile Radio System Operators (both public safety and
nonpublic safety) need to aggressively develop a strategy to meet
narrowband deadlines to avoid cancellation of existing wideband FCC
authorizations. Although the migration deadline may seem far off,
the long lead time and interim deadlines make it necessary for you
to plan well in advance.
Assess Current Equipment and Start Planning.
To prepare for the migration, organizations should start
assessing their radio systems and planning for replacements or
upgrades. They should inventory their current equipment to ascertain
what can be converted to 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replaced
before January 1, 2013. Most new equipment has the capability for
both 25 kHz and 12.5 kHz operation because any VHF/UHF radio
equipment accepted by the FCC after February 14, 1997, had to have
12.5 kHz capability. The 2.5 kHz narrowband equipment is available
in both conventional analog FM and digital formats (such as Project
25), so narrowband conventional FM systems will be compliant. Local
governments should develop contingency plans to accommodate system
changes for both public safety and nonpublic safety systems.
Obtain New or Modified Licenses.
To move to narrowband operations, organizations must apply for
new frequencies or modify existing licenses. An organization that is
licensed for a 25 kHz-wide channel is not guaranteed two 12.5 kHz
channels. Licensees will have to justify to the FCC why they need
additional channels. Consideration of applications for new
narrowband licenses will follow the same process as a new license
application. As organizations migrate to narrowband operation,
however, the pool of available frequencies will increase.
Motorola Radios that are Not Narrowband Capable
Radio equipment manufacturers have been aware of the pending
narrowband mandate since 1997 and most of the equipment purchased in
the last five years will be capable of changing to narrowband
operation simply by reprogramming.
Following is a list of Motorola radios that you may still have in
service and are NOT narrowband capable:
Bases & Repeaters
Please note that some older versions of the HT1000 and VISAR
portable radios are programmable for narrowband only on existing
channels. However, they may not be compatible if new narrowband
frequencies are added.
Plan for the Longer - Term with MOTOTRBO™
To meet later mandates planned by the FCC, consider new equipment
that is capable of 6.25 kHz channels. These very narrowband systems
are digital – your license should specify digital operations prior
to use of this equipment.
- MOTOTRBO TDMA will provide improved Capacity and Capability
with Reduced Costs
- MOTOTRBO provides 2 For 1 Channel Capacity for a 12.5kHz
- MOTOTRBO technology investments require emission update on
|6.25 kHz FDMA
- Simply adding a new emission designator does not require a
- Adding emission designator supports system transition
Is your Business Radio System "Narrowband" compliant?
Let Milbank Communications Inc, complete an assessment of your
existing licenses. We will simplify the process for you and help you
It's important to start planning now to migrate to narrowband
systems by assessing your current radio equipment and applying for
new or modified licenses – the FCC deadline of January 1, 2013 is
not very far away.
Contact Us Today to Help You with Narrowbanding
For More Information
Federal Communications Commission:
Direct Links to FCC Documents:
NIJ’s Communications Technologies (CommTech):