The FCC’s narrowbanding deadline is fast-approaching. On Jan. 1, 2013, “all public-safety and business/industrial land-mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands must cease operating using 25 kHz efficiency technology, and begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency. Those who do not comply face “admonishment, monetary fines, or loss of license,” according to the FCC website.

Despite the stern tone of the FCC’s words, Ian Torok — director of technical services for two-way-radio vendor BearCom — is upbeat about the deadline. The reason: “Most later model radios do not need to be replaced but can simply be reprogrammed,” Torok said.

Of course, reprogramming existing radios to 12.5kHz can reduce overall performance, forcing public-safety agencies to build additional transmitter sites to restore full service. However, there is good news, according to Torok.

“If an agency is required to replace large numbers of radios, it’s something that can pay off when users upgrade to two-way radios with digital technology,” he said. “Digital radios offer substantial improvements in capacity, security, audio quality, and coverage. This may mitigate the need to expand the transmitter site network, while being able to leverage the existing network.”

So where will the money to do this come from? “Typically there is no funding for this effort,” Torok said. “However, there may be funding opportunities for public safety that may exist under separate initiatives such as agencies adopting P25 technologies.”