Learn about the FCC's move to narrowbanding and how to comply with this important 2013 ruling.
FCC Narrow Banding Mandate Requirements
- Prior to 2011, most radio systems used 25 kHz-wide channels.
- The FCC mandated that all licensees using 25 kHz radio systems migrate to narrowband 12.5 kHz channels by January 1, 2013.
- The order affected systems on VHF and UHF channels between 150 and 512 MHz.
- Licensees that did not meet the deadline faced the loss of license.
- Manufacture and importation of any equipment on 25 KHz channel was no longer permitted after January 1, 2011.
- Part 90 "paging-only" frequencies were exempt from this ruling.
- Low Band VHF systems BELOW 150 MHz were not affected by this ruling.
- Licensees that have not used their systems for several years must assess their current radio equipment and apply for new or modified licenses.
All Part 90 radio systems operating on frequencies between 150-512 MHz had to convert those systems either to 12.5 kHz bandwidth or to a technology that provides one voice path per 12.5 kHz of bandwidth or provides a data rate of 4800 bps/6.25 kHz. Licensees were required to certify to the Commission that they have made the technical necessary changes and were using narrowband equipment.
FCC Releases & Orders
Report and Order
ET Docket 04-243
3rd report and Order
WT Docket 99-87
4th Memorandum Opinion and Order
Links to FCC Documents:
Do you have a valid license?
A license is required to operate any part 90 VHF or UHF (150 Mhz-512 MHz) radio system. If you do not have a valid license, check to make sure you are paying "air-time" or that your provider has a license. If the answer is no, you will need to determine what frequencies are programmed in your radios and ascertain whether a license is required. It is recommended that you seek the assistance of a "Certified Frequency Coordinator."
Verify that your radios are "Narrow Band Capable"
Radios that are not capable of being reprogrammed and set to narrowband will need be replaced. Check with your radio dealer to see if your radio can be reprogrammed. Most newer radios should be capable of migrating from wide to narrow band mode.
Check Your License
Look at your license from the Federal Communications Commission. On the far right is a column labeled "Emission Designator." If the first two digits are greater than 11 it will need to be modified.
If your radios cannot be reprogrammed and you have determined that you will need to modify your license, have a budget and a plan. This may mean replacing your radios, particularly if your radios are older/crystal controlled. Most radios purchased within 6-8 years prior to 2013 are narrowband capable. They only need to be re-tuned or re-programmed by a technician to comply with the rules. Contact your local radio dealer and get a price quote. Avoid costly FCC fines and avoid potentially losing your license. To move to narrowband operations, licensees must apply for new frequencies or modify existing licenses. A licensee that is licensed for a 25 kHz-wide channel is not guaranteed two 12.5 kHz channels. Licensees will have to justify to the FCC why they need additional channels. Consideration of applications for new narrowband licenses will follow the same process as a new license application. Secure the help of a "FCC Certified Frequency Coordination.
What This Means to Licensees
All existing Part 90 radio systems operating on frequencies between 150-512 MHz have to convert those systems either to 12.5 kHz bandwidth or to a technology that provides one voice path per 12.5 kHz of bandwidth or provides a data rate of 4800 bps/6.25 kHz. Licensees are required to certify to the Commission that they have made the technical necessary changes and are using narrowband equipment. Licensees that do not meet this deadline will be cancelled by the FCC and relicensing of cancelled systems will become very difficult.
Narrowbanding does not require moving to another frequency band. You reduce the bandwidth of the channel(s) you are now using.
Most radios purchased 6-8 years prior to 2013 are narrowband capable. They only need to be re-tuned or re-programmed by a technician to comply with the rules. Check with your dealer or service shop to identify which units may need to be replaced.
Your coverage will remain approximately the same. Only a thorough analysis of your coverage requirements can tell for sure.
You do not have to convert to digital. However, many licensees are using this opportunity to upgrade to digital technology. Most digital radios are dual mode capable and can operate in wideband analog as well as narrowband analog and digital. Digital is also more immune from adjacent channel interference and has features that are unavailable in analog.
If your radios are not narrowband capable, you will have to spend money for new equipment and expect to spend money for retuning of existing dual-mode radios.
The FCC required narrowband compliance as of 1/1/2013.
Getting Compliant for the FCC Narrow Banding Mandate
The FCC requires that you submit form 601 and all relevant schedules to complete this license modification. The forms can be a bit tricky. The FCC has information available about filing Narrowbanding applications.
Frequency coordinator : An entity or organization that has been certified by the Commission to recommend frequencies for use by licensees in the Private Land Mobile Radio Services.