FCC nixes key 2011 narrowbanding deadlines
Significant interim narrowbanding deadlines scheduled to take effect at the end of this year were eliminated by the FCC, which reiterated plans to have most public-safety networks operating on spectrum below 512 MHz utilize 12.5 kHz channels instead of 25 kHz channels by Jan. 1, 2013.
In an order released yesterday, the FCC granted aspects of a petition from the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) calling for removal of Jan. 1, 2011, deadlines that would prohibit vendors from importing and manufacturing equipment that would operate on 25 kHz channels. In addition, the order waives the 2011 deadline that would have required equipment after that date to be capable of operating at 6.25 kHz equivalency to receive FCC certification.
NPSTC expressed concern that FCC enforcement of these 2011 deadlines would make it difficult for public-safety entities to find replacement equipment for existing 25 kHz-channel equipment and that the 6.25 equivalency requirement would result in public safety paying more for narrowbanding equipment than would necessary.
“We appreciate the fact that the FCC did move on [the NPSTC petition],” said Dick Mirgon, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). “It helps clarify a lot of issues that are out there.”
While waiving these 2011 narrowbanding deadlines, the FCC order maintained the agency’s position that no 25 kHz-capable system expansions be approved — and no new 25 kHz-capable equipment be certified — after Jan. 1, 2011.
With the questions surrounding the 2011 deadlines clarified, the narrowbanding focus will shift to meeting the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline, at which time LMR systems operating in the 150–174 MHz and the 421–512 MHz bands must operate on 12.5 kHz channels — something NPSTC and other public-safety organizations have supported.
“We need to get public safety to understand that the  deadline is firm,” Mirgon said. “They have got to work to resolve to hit [the deadline].”