Just days after the FCC issued a public notice regarding rules for the narrowbanding of systems operating on spectrum below 512 MHz, the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) has asked the commission to reconsider one aspect that would have a significant impact when the compliance deadline passes in less than four weeks.
In the FCC's public notice issued on Nov. 30, the agency cited the LMCC in stating that "effective February 1, 2013, frequency coordinators will treat incumbent non-compliant 25 kHz systems as 12.5 kHz systems for purposes of identifying frequency assignments," unless an affected licensee had a waiver or a pending waiver request as of the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline.
But that was not the LMCC's position, according to a filing this week from LMCC President Douglas Aiken. Instead of being treated as if their systems had narrowbanded from 25 kHz channels to 12.5 kHz channels, noncompliant LMR networks would be treated as if they did not exist at all under the LMCC proposal.
"Rather than providing the incentive intended by LMCC for licensees to bring noncompliant wideband systems into narrowbanding compliance or risk coordination of an "overlay" exclusive use assignment, licensees of such systems would be treated as though they were compliant already," the LMCC filing states.
POLL: How should the FCC instruct frequency coordinators to protect licensees that do not meet the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline to narrowband their LMR systems and do not have a waiver or pending waiver request?
LMCC made its position known to thein writing in May, and that position was reiterated in numerous conversations with FCC officials, so it "should have been abundantly clear" what the organization was seeking, according to Mark Crosby, secretary/treasurer of the LMCC and president/CEO of the .
"We asked for an orange, and [the FCC] published a pomegranate in the public notice," Crosby said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "The deficiency in their approach is that you give the benefit of noncompliance to those who haven't done a thing for 15 years.
"Treating them as 12.5 [kHz-channel licensees] provides absolutely zero benefit — it doesn't help anybody. It doesn't create more opportunities for trunked systems; it doesn't do anything. It doesn't help anybody except the noncompliant licensee, who says, 'I knew I didn't have to file anything. They're going to treat me as I'm compliant anyway,' which is ridiculous."
If noncompliant systems operating on frequencies below 512 MHz are protected as if they are 12.5 kHz narrowbanded networks by frequency coordinators — as the FCC ruled in its public notice — the massive narrowbanding effort will not yield many new spectrum opportunities in most urban and suburban locations, according to Ralph Haller, general manager of the frequency-coordination operation for the International Municipal Signal Association/International Association of Fire Chiefs (IMSA/IAFC) and the Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA) partnership.
"There might be a small number of channels that will become available when everyone is assumed to be narrowbanded, but it's going to be a really minimal number," Haller said during an interview with Urgent Communications.
Various industry sources have estimated that 30% of existing licensees affected by the narrowbanding mandate will not meet the Jan. 1 deadline, according to Crosby. One benefit to the LMCC approach — having frequency coordinators treat noncompliant system as if they do not exist — is that it would make it easier to identify which licenses are no longer being actively used, he said.
"One of the benefits of the LMCC proposal … is that we have reason to believe that there's a significant percentage of that 30% that aren't even there," Crosby said. "We would like to have the opportunity to engage with these potential people to see if they are there or not. Because, if they're not there, let's clean them out and then we get to do new and better systems."