We still may see narrowbanding fireworks
The Jan. 1, 2013, deadline to comply with the FCC’s narrowbanding mandate is in the rear-view mirror. There were no fireworks, no parade. In fact, besides marking the beginning of a new year, it was just another day. After living with the constant threat of immediate license cancellations and huge fines for noncompliance, perhaps we expected more.
What was the purpose of narrowbanding? The demand for VHF and UHF Private Land Mobile Radio (PLMR) spectrum continues to grow. And because the majority of public-safety and business/industrial licensees were authorized to operate using wideband 25 kHz technology, those frequency bands are heavily congested, to the point that available spectrum for new systems or existing system expansion is scarce. Migrating to 12.5 kHz technology — or the equivalent — allows licensees to operate more efficiently, while creating additional channels within the same spectrum, thereby supporting more users.
Where do we stand today with narrowbanding? With few exceptions, equipment operating on VHF and UHF spectrum in the public-safety and business/industrial bands should now be narrowband compliant. Unauthorized wideband operation is now in violation of the Commission’s rules and may subject licensees to enforcement action. However, because the FCC has received, and continues to receive, a high volume of license-modification applications that reflect narrowband emissions, it is doubtful that any action will be taken in the first quarter of 2013 against non-compliant licensees.
Overall, a high percentage of users have met their narrowband obligation. The remaining non-compliant licensees still present in the FCC ULS database could be there for several reasons:
- A waiver has been authorized, or is currently pending with the FCC.
- The licensee is no longer in operation.
- The licensee has fulfilled its equipment narrowband obligation, but has neglected to file the necessary license modification.
- No narrowband action has been taken.
According to Mark Crosby, president/CEO of the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), the FCC Enforcement Bureau and frequency coordinators plan to work together to identify licensees that have not complied with the narrowbanding mandate so that appropriate action can be taken. Crosby also believes that many of the licensees that have not addressed narrowbanding are no longer there, because they have moved on to other spectrum bands or systems, but the licenses never were canceled. A possible audit of non-compliant licensees is very encouraging.
Some of the topics discussed in a recent meeting between the FCC and frequency coordinators, including EWA included:
- Frequency advisory committees may consider non-compliant incumbent licensees as if they are operating 11K3F3E analog systems.
- The FCC will release another Public Notice by April 2013, regarding narrowbanding policy and enforcement matters.
- The FCC Enforcement Bureau will identify a single point of contact for receiving notices of non-compliance for possible enforcement action.
- The Commission will initiate procedures to expedite the deletion of non-existent or non-operational licenses from the ULS database.
- The FCC will audit licensees that show a wideband emission designator only. Inactive licenses will be terminated and active non-compliant licenses will be subject to enforcement action.
We strongly suggest to anyone who decided to ignore the FCC’s narrowband mandate to reconsider — or there just might be fireworks after all.
Nancy Gruen is EWA’s director of membership development.