FCC Narrowbanding Mandate
For many years two way radio systems have used 25 kilohertz (kHz) wide channels or in the VHF band 15 kilohertz (kHz). All two-way radios have used blocks of this radio spectrum otherwise known as "channels". The FCC or Federal Communications Commission hasmandated that nearly all two way radio users switch from the wide band frequencies of 25khz to 15khz channels) to "narrowband" (12.5khz or 7.5khz channels). To make a long story short, this is essentially focusing the frequencies used by two way radios. As more people find uses for two way radios, and as more UHF and VHF frequencies are needed, the broadband technology is to broad and taking too many frequencies. The end result of all of this? Essentially this is going to force radios to become more focused and precise, taking up a smaller range of these channels, thus allowing more users.
In this blog post we are going to try to sum up what this means for you, and how you can approach making sure that this mandate is taken care of. We want to make sure that you are not using illegal radios a year from now. Some of you might not need to do anything, but please read on to find out.
First and foremost, this mandate is applicable to any radio system that is licensed by the FCC which has a frequency band of 150-174 mhz or 450-470 mhz and that is licensed for business, industrial or public safety use. All amateur radio systems like many of the radios sold on this site, radios intended for marine use, and paging-only radio systems are exempt. So if you are using FCC licensed radios for as chool, church, organization and association (profit or non-profit), schools, etc. as well as county organizations, law enforcements and fire department or any other non-federal agency.
Here is an outline of when to expect these changes:
January 1st, 2011
FCC is no longer going to license new systems that operate in wideband mode or frequencies. The FCC will also not allow any modifications to existing wideband radio systems if the changes result in a "coverage area" of the existing system
Things that this would include would be increasing the heigh of an antenna all the way to a repeater or base station modification or upgrade, transmitter power upgrade. Also changing the location of a wideband radio system might also be denied. It is recommended to just make the switch to narrowband NOW rather than later. Common sense right?
January 1st, 2013
This is the official big date. Meaning, all two-way radio systems need to be operating on a narrowband mode or frequencies at this time. There are no extensions. There are no exceptions. And if this is like any other FCC mandate, there will be hefty fines for those violating it. The FCC has made it particularly clear that there will be NO exceptions for anyone at any time. Yayyy!
Now of course to clear up some common misconceptions about the FCC mandate, we will give you some of the common ones:
1. Switching to digital is the only way around the narrowbanding mandate.
Wrong. A narrowband bandwidth is simply a radio operating on a thinner, smaller, more efficient frequency. You can choose to go digital, but you just have to go narrowband. It's that simple. Switching to narrowband might result in a smaller coverage area of your existing system however. Oh joy! So you can buy more powerful narrowband systems and spend more money (thanks to the FCC) but it looks like the digital systems overcome this without a decrease in coverage area. I guess that's why people assume you have to switch to a narrowband system.
2. You'll have to switch frequencies when you switch to a narrowband system?
Wrong. The frequencies your radios currently operate on will not change, nor have to change. Rather, the "bandwidth" of your radios is what must change. For radios that already have a narrowband mode, this requires them to simply switched to this mode by reprogramming them.
3. I can modify or have my radios modified at a radio shop to have them operate on narrowband!
Again, not the case (most of the time). Long story short if you modify the radios from a radio shop or yourself and you want to use them legally then you'll need to have them get a new type certification from the FCC. This involves having them tested by an approved engineer to make sure they are working safe and sound in the narrowband. This process is very expensive and basically it isn't worthy of doing when you can just buy new narrowband radios for much much less. Consumerism at it's finest!
What needs to be done?
Basically you have to get your radios reprogrammed and pay a hefty fee to have them checked and to get relicensed by the FCC or you can replace them with new narrowband radios. Your FCC license will also need to be changed in order to reflect the new narrowband of operation. If you are using an amateur radio as they call it, or one that doesn't require a FCC license to operate to begin with, then you can sit back and enjoy your products and not worry about it. Everyone else has to take action and get new radios or reprogram their radios and get relicensed or they will be breaking the law.
If you have any questions about your radios being in the correct frequency range and band, please don't hesitate to contact us. Best of luck!
Also please be sure to view this if you need more information: