FCC proposal offers much to ponder
I was asked for an opinion on a subject the other day, and I thought that I’d pose the question to the readership. Is non-public-safety land-mobile radio dead?
Let’s look at what has happened the past few years: Nextel purchased, through a series of transactions, most of the non-public-safety 800 MHz band, as well as the 900 MHz band; there are few SMR operators left that don’t primarily serve public-safety users; most of the “base and two” that made up a large part of the industry have migrated to Nextel or some version of cellular; and frequency coordination numbers have dropped significantly across all land-mobile bands. Yes, there are still enterprise users out there, utilities, etc., but how many?
Obviously, the focus in Part 90 now is public safety. Interoperability, rebanding, VHF statewide build-outs — it’s all about public safety. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what does that portend for the future of manufacturing in the private services?
Other telltale evidence can be found in FCC Auctions 40 and 48, during which the commission auctioned 25 kHz exclusive channel pairs in the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands. Yet, other than the largest urban areas, few bidders showed up to pay as little as $450 for an exclusive channel pair over a metropolitan area.
Will this trend continue? If so, should we rethink how spectrum is allocated? The FCC has recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in a proceeding that looks at numerous rule changes, which might actually spur some of the discussion. Proposed rule changes include:
Frequency coordination: The FCC proposed to eliminate the frequency coordination requirement where a licensee is changing its station class from CMRS to PMRS, or vice versa. The FCC also has requested comments on eliminating the frequency coordination requirement when a licensee proposes to reduce its bandwidth (e.g., from 25 kHz to 12.5 kHz).
Paging on VHF public-safety channels: The FCC asked whether it should impose restrictions on paging on VHF paging frequencies.
Cross-banding: The FCC proposed language changes to make clear that all public-safety licensees may operate cross-band repeaters under the general mobile relay rules in Section 90.243.
Mobile repeaters: The FCC proposed to eliminate the restriction at 150 MHz on mobile repeaters operating only on the low power channels in that band.
Expired licenses: The FCC proposed to prohibit coordination of frequencies associated with expired licenses until the frequencies are deleted from ULS. This had been proposed by the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC), which consists of all of the frequency coordinators.
Multiple licensing: The FCC proposed to eliminate the multiple licensing (i.e., community repeater) format.
Transit systems and toll roads: The FCC proposed to make publicly operated transit systems and toll roads eligible for licensing in the public-safety pool, just as government-operated transit systems are currently eligible.
I/B eligibility: The FCC proposed to make for-profit entities operated by municipal governments, such as a golf course, eligible in the industrial/business pool by rule, instead of by permission, which is the current policy.
LM detuning of AM broadcast towers: The FCC proposed to include in Part 90 rules similar to rules in other radio services to protect AM broadcast stations with antenna patterns altered by the proximity of land-mobile antennas and towers.
FB8T station class: The FCC issued 35 authorizations for centralized trunking (i.e., no monitoring required) for temporary sites at 150 and 450 MHz before we brought to their attention how dangerous this was. Thus, they no longer do it. However, they’ve proposed to renew those existing 35 licenses with a requirement to monitor, as others with a similar station class must do.
Reorganization of Part 90: The FCC asked for comments on moving CMRS rules currently in Part 90 to Part 22 or Part 27.
4.9 GHz band: The FCC asked for comments on a petition by M/A-COM related to primary licensing for certain links in that band.
Wireless medical telemetry service: The FCC asked for comments on a plan from LMCC and the American Society of Health Care Engineering regarding coordination in the band.
It should be interesting to see whether and how comments on these proposals track developments in the industry.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at email@example.com.