Radio systems operating from 470 MHz to 512 MHz — the T-band — should not have to spend additional money to meet the FCC’s year-end narrowbanding mandate, according to New York City Police Department (NYPD) Deputy Chief Charles Dowd. That’s because new rules passed by Congress last week dictate that those networks will have to be abandoned during the next decade, Dowd said.

Last Friday, Congress passed payroll-tax legislation that calls for $7 billion in federal grants to help pay for the deployment of a nationwide LTE network for public safety and reallocates the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to first responders. Set to become law when President Barack Obama signs it this week, the legislation also calls for public safety to return its T-band spectrum — used only in 14 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. — during the next 9 to 11 years

New York City’s police and fire departments both operate T-band systems. During the past three years, Dowd has been outspoken in expressing his belief that the NYPD would benefit more if the money required to narrowband its existing system — estimated to be between $100 million and $300 million — instead could be used to help fund a 700 MHz LTE deployment.

This opinion has been reinforced by the passage of the new T-band relocation rules, Dowd said.

“At this point, it just jumps right at you that it simply doesn’t make any sense to make those in the UHF T-band have to narrowband their radio systems, if we’re going to have to get off that spectrum in a few years,” Dowd said. “It just makes no sense to make an expenditure like that when — in my perspective on this — broadband is the future of networked communications.”

Dowd’s critics have noted repeatedly that LTE does not provide mission-critical voice capability that includes peer-to-peer connectivity, and no one is certain when the technology might meet public safety’s voice standards.

While it may not happen in the next few years, Dowd is confident that a solution will be realized during the upcoming decade, when NYPD will have to clear the T-band airwaves.

“Within that timeframe, we will probably get to a mission-critical voice capability,” he said. “Whether we do or don’t, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be spending money to narrowband a system with an old technology — and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do that — simply because there’s a mandate to do it. In the face of what happened [Friday in Congress], to me, it just doesn’t make any sense anymore.”

There is no provision in the new legislation that would waive T-band licensees from the FCC’s narrowbanding mandate, but Dowd said “we’re pretty optimistic that some action will be taken to relieve that burden from those that are in the T-band.

“Given the scarcity of financial resources today, why would you be doing that? Based on the legislation that was passed [last Friday], I think that the FCC would come to the same conclusion, as well — that it just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. But we’ll see how that goes.”