Licensees operating systems between 150 MHz and 512 MHz will be subject to FCC enforcement procedures if they do not transition their networks from 25 kHz channels to 12.5 kHz channel equivalency by the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline, the FCC said in a public notice released late last week.

In the much-anticipated release of rules, the FCC addressed many of the clarifications sought by the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) in its petition submitted more than a year ago. Most notable among these is a stipulation that affected licensees that have not narrowbanded by the 2013 date cannot operate after that date on a secondary basis. Instead, they will be deemed to be in violation of FCC rules, making them subject “to enforcement action, including admonishments, monetary forfeitures and/or license revocation, as appropriate.”

“I’m very pleased that the commission has issued a public notice and that they have made it very clear about the consequence of failing to meet the 2013 narrowbanding date,” said Ralph Haller, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) said. “This will assist the coordinators and others in convincing the licensees that they have to take this seriously.”

Al Ittner, Motorola’s senior manager of spectrum and regulatory strategy, echoed this sentiment.

“It’s very important for users to know what happens if [they] don’t do this, because we’ve had questions along that line, ‘What if I don’t do it?’” Ittner said. “[The FCC] kept their options opens, in terms of what happens. But [licensees are] not going secondary, and [the FCC] will enforce compliance, and there are a number of things they can do, up to losing their license.”

Another key aspect of the public notice was clarifications of some rules regarding the Jan. 1, 2011, interim date. Radios for the affected bands that are certified by that date do not have to be recertified, and vendors can continue to manufacture or import them if the 25 kHz mode is disabled via software.

Current FCC rules mandate that radios for the affected bands that are certified after the 2011 interim date must include a 6.25 kHz channel equivalency mode — a channel equivalency that the FCC plans to mandate eventually at an unspecified date in the future. Last week’s FCC notice did not change those rules, but the agency noted that it is still considering a NPSTC petition requesting that the 2011 deadlines be stayed. The reply comment period on the NPSTC petition closed on Dec. 3.

While generally pleased with the public notice, Haller said he was “disappointed” that the new FCC rules do not require licensees to remove the 25 kHz emission designator from their licensee when they make the transition to 12.5 kHz operation.

“If someone has converted and they still have 25 kHz on their license, from a [frequency] coordination standpoint, we still have to coordinate around them,” Haller said. “It’s going to make coordination less efficient by not requiring removal of the wideband emission.”