With a little more than four months left until LMR systems operating on frequencies below 512 MHz are required to migrate from 25 kHz channels to 12.5 kHz channels under the FCC’s narrowbanding rules, licensees should be prepared for enforcement consequences if they do not meet their obligations or secure a waiver from the agency, a commission official said last week.

“In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of progress, as many licensees have migrated their systems to narrowband operations—this has been very gratifying,” David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau, said during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference last week. “But we still have thousands of public-safety licensees who are operating in wideband mode, and time is short.

“Let me reiterate what the commission has said all along: We are not moving the narrowbanding deadline. It is, and will be, Jan. 1, 2013.”

Furth said affected licensees have two choices to remain in compliance: make the transition to narrowband technology or get a waiver from the FCC. The commission has detailed the conditions for waiver approval, one of which takes into account when a waiver application is filed, Furth said.

“In order to obtain a waiver, you need to make a timely request—that means now, if you have not filed a waiver,” he said. “I cannot overemphasize that waiver requests that are filed at the 11th hour before the deadline will be viewed with skepticism and are very likely not to be granted.”

Affected licensees that fail to narrowband and do not obtain a waiver will suffer consequences, Furth said.

“Will the commission enforce its rules? The answer is emphatically, ‘Yes,’” he said. “We are already working with the FCC’s enforcement bureau to prepare for 2013, and the enforcement bureau plans to issue guidance soon, reminding licensees of their narrowbanding obligations and of the commission’s intent to aggressively enforce the narrowband mandate.

“It is important to get the word out to your friends and neighbors to make sure that everyone is taking this obligation seriously. This is serious.”