FCC waives narrowbanding requirement for T-Band systems
Public-safety and business/industrial LMR networks operating on T-Band (470–512 MHz) spectrum will not be subject to the narrowbanding deadline at the end of the year, the FCC stated in a public notice released today.
By waiving the narrowbanding mandate — rules requiring that LMR systems transition from 25 MHz channels to 12.5 MHz channels by the end of the year — the FCC met one of the key requests made by public-safety entities with narrowband systems in the T-Band in the aftermath of a new law that reallocated to the D Block to first responders. The new law requires public-safety agencies operating in the T-Band to vacate that spectrum within 11 years — a period so short that agencies narrowbanding this year would not be able to use the new equipment for its full life cycle.
“Continuing to require narrowbanding could force many licensees in the band to invest in narrowband systems that may subsequently have to be relocated,” the FCC states in its public notice. “We conclude that it would be inequitable and contrary to the public interest to require PLMR licensees to meet the January 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline with respect to frequencies in the 470–512 MHz band.”
This news was not surprising within the LMR industry, because David Furth — acting chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau — recently indicated that the agency would be issuing a narrowbanding waiver for T-Band operators and would freeze T-Band license applications, something the FCC did in a separate public notice today.
In the new law, only public-safety entities are required to vacate the T-Band, but business-industrial users of the spectrum also should expect to move, as well, Enterprise Wireless Alliance President and CEO Mark Crosby said yesterday during a webinar on the T-Band issue.
“Why would they freeze the band and waive narrowbanding for industrial-business folks, as well, if it wasn’t their intention … to have the industrial-business folks in the T-Band transition to another location, as well?” Crosby said in a subsequent interview.
In addition to waiving the narrowbanding requirement for T-Band operators, the FCC also lifted the ban prohibiting vendors from manufacturing or importing 25 kHz-only equipment that operates in the T-Band. While these exceptions exist within the T-Band, the FCC public notice reiterated the agency’s intention to maintain requirements for narrowbanding in the other impacted bands.