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Narrowbanding

 

FCC public safety narrowbanding is a Federal requirement that applies to all public safety radio systems in the VHF, UHF, and 700 MHz bands. Narrowbanding will create many times more channels than are currently available for licensing to public safety organizations. There is no narrowbanding requirement for public safety radio systems in the 800 MHz band.
 
On January 13, 2013, all public safety and industrial land mobile radio systems operating between 150-512 (VHF and UHF) MHz must narrowband. Systems must cease operating on “wideband” radio transmitters with efficiency of 25 kHz per channel, and must begin operating on “narrowband” radio technology with efficiency of 12.5 kHz per channel. This mandate applies to all users of land mobile radio systems operating in 150-512 MHz (VHF and UHF bands). The January 13, 2013 deadline is Phase 1 of a two-phase migration. Phase 2 of the VHF/UHF narrowband transition will require transition to “ultra-narrowband” radio technology with channel efficiency of 6.25 kHz per channel.
 
Additionally, on January 1st, 2017, all 700 MHz public safety radio systems in the General Use and State License allocations must cease operating on narrowband radio transmitters with efficiency of 12.5 kHz per channel, and must migrate to ultra-narrowband technology with efficiency of 6.25 kHz per channel. This deadline does not apply to VHF or UHF radio systems.
Figure 1: Narrowband Phases
 
There is no narrowbanding requirement for public safety land mobile radio systems in the 800 MHz band.
 
Narrowband Phase Channel Efficiency​ Deadline​
VHF/UHF Phase 1 ​12.5 kHz 1/1/2013​
VHF/UHF Phase 2​ ​6.25 kHz ​Date pending
​700 MHz ​6.25 kHz ​1/1/2017
 Table 1: Narrowband Phases and Channel Efficiency
 
Public Safety users aren’t the only group that has had to narrowband. For example, the digital TV transition of 2009 required all television broadcasters to narrowband and vacate the 700 MHz band. This action eventually made commercial 4G possible for leading cellular carriers and also resulted in a generous spectrum allocation for public safety. So, while narrowbanding is a tremendous and often costly challenge, it can lead to significant and unforeseen public benefit far above and beyond capital costs incurred during migration.
 
For more information, see www.fcc.gov/narrowbanding or please feel free to contact ECN with any further questions.