Just do it
Want to know what to do about the “FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in The Matter of Improving Public Safety Communications in the 800MHz Band and Consolidating the 900MHz Industrial/Land Transportation and Business Pool Channels”?
Yes, ignore it.
But only if you’re in a special class of radio users called, “Public Safety — Ready Now.”
We’re talking about the FCC proceeding that considers proposals made by Nextel Communications, the National Association of Manufacturers and MRFAC (formerly called the Manufacturers Radio Frequency Advisory Committee). Those proposals would reallocate radio spectrum in a way intended to mitigate interference from commercial mobile radio service systems that use low-elevation, low-power base stations with digital modulation in a cellular architecture for frequency reuse.
Most of the interference complaints come from public safety agencies using radio systems configured with high-elevation, high-power base stations with analog modulation for economical coverage with comparatively few sites — sometimes with simulcast. Some analog CMRS, B&I/LT and other digital system operators also receive interference.
Interference complaints from agencies in as many as 28 states have been linked to Nextel’s 800MHz digital enhanced specialized mobile radio operations. When Nextel’s digital ESMR base stations transmit, communications with mobile and portable public safety radios in the immediate vicinity may become garbled or blocked.
Nextel submitted a far-reaching proposal that would require public safety agencies using 800MHz to change frequencies as would Nextel. Moving to opposite ends of the 800MHz band, the two incompatible types of radio systems could operate with less, if any, interference — except perhaps near the frequency boundary between them.
The FCC has stated that 1,320 public safety licensees would have to change their operating frequencies. An additional 2,100 B&I/LT licensees would have to change frequencies, along with 1,100 SMR licensees. These figures apply to the Nextel proposal. Significantly fewer licensees would have to change frequencies under the NAM proposal.
Not everyone has spoken. You and anyone else can tell the FCC what you think about the Nextel or NAM proposals. You can answer the FCC’s questions and submit your own ideas. The deadline for sending your comments is 30 days after the Federal Register publishes the FCC’s notice. As of early April, the clock had not yet started.
Various trade associations and large private system operators are refining a proposal resembling NAM’s that would move system frequencies here and there within the 800MHz band. Such a plan would avoid the need for moving 800MHz systems to frequencies in the 700MHz and 900MHz as Nextel’s plan would require. Such a change would involve multiple complexities including gigantic equipment change-out costs, incumbent TV stations in the 700MHz band and channel bandwidths in the 900MHz band.
You can get a preliminary look at the various proposals along with the FCC’s Notice on the Industrial Telecommunications Association Web site at www.ita-relay.com. Click on “Nextel 800MHz Band Proposal Updates.”
What does all this have to do with ignoring the notice?
If your public safety agency has plans in the works for upgrading its system and using 800MHz frequencies to do it, go ahead.
Look what’s happening to system operators who are putting off decisions until frequency refarming of the VHF and UHF bands is completed. They’re still waiting.
Look what’s happening to system operators who are delaying decisions until frequencies in the 700MHz band become available. In many geographic areas where channels for public safety communications are needed most, they have to wait until incumbent TV stations vacate the frequencies. They may be waiting a long, long time.
If your expenditure isn’t excessive, your need is immediate and your timetable for construction is relatively short, you should obtain your 800MHz licenses and build or expand your system. You’ll be getting life out of your new system while other agencies allow a wait-and-see attitude to consume years of valuable time.
You have to be careful about public dollars you spend, that’s certain. At the same time, you have an obligation to the first responders on the street.
If you’re ready now, go ahead with your 800MHz project.
Ignore the notice.