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FCC Narrowbanding Compliance

What You Need to Know


Click the following image for more information on the Narrowbanding Mandate:



Still Have Questions? Visit Our Narrowbanding FAQ's Page for some Commonly Asked Questions Concerning the Upcoming Narrowbanding Mandate.



Are your radio system and subscribers ready for Narrowbanding?


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is mandating all public safety and industrial/business licensees convert existing 25 kHz radio systems to minimum narrowband 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by January 1, 2013. The purpose of the narrowband mandate is to promote more efficient use of the VHF and UHF land mobile frequency bands.


Who is affected?


All land mobile Part 90, 25 kHz efficiency systems operating on VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) frequency bands are affected.


Key Dates:


The FCC has set the following deadlines for licensees and manufacturers, requiring migration to minimum 12.5 kHz efficiency systems.



What is Spectrum Efficiency?


Today, VHF and UHF frequency bands are extremely congested making it difficult for licensees to expand their existing systems or implement new systems. Requiring licensees to convert their existing radio systems to operate more efficiently, either on narrower channel bandwidths or increased voice paths on existing channels, will allow creation of additional channels within the same spectrum.


What does Equivalent Efficiency Mean?


A common source of confusion is use of the terms "efficiency" and "equivalent efficiency" in various FCC narrowbanding rulings. The FCC does not mandate channel width, it mandates spectrum efficiency.The rules require 12.5 kHz or equivalent efficiency. Any one of the following meets this FCC requirement:


- One voice path in a 12.5 kHz channel
- Two voice paths in a 25 kHz channel
- Data rates of 4800 bps per 6.25 kHz of channel bandwidth (9.6 kbps in 12.5 kHz channels or 19.2 kbps in 25 kHz channels)


Similarly, the certification rules noted above require a 6.25 kHz or equivalent efficiency mode.


Any of the following meets this requirement:


- One voice path in a 6.25 kHz channel
- Two voice paths in a 12.5 kHz channel
- Four voice paths in a 25 kHz channel
- Data rates of 4800 bps per 6.25 kHz of channel bandwidth (9.6 kbps in 12.5 kHz channels or 19.2 kbps in 25 kHz channels)


Paging-Only Channels Exemption:


Paging operations on the Part 90 "paging only" frequencies are exempt from the above narrowbanding requirements, and licensees can continue to operate at 25 kHz efficiency after 1/1/2013. The "paging only" frequencies are:

Public Safety
- 152.0075
- 157.450


- 152.480
- 157.740
- 158.460
- 462.750
- 462.775
- 462.800
- 462.825
- 462.850
- 462.875
- 462.900
- 462.925



Many systems operate pagers on two-way voice channels as an adjunct to voice operations. Paging on any Part 90 channel other than the above is subject to narrowbanding requirements.


Low Power Portable Exemption:


Equipment certification applications submitted by manufacturers as of January 1, 2011 for hand-held transmitters with an output power of 2 watts or less are exempt from the requirement that the equipment includes a 6.25 kHz efficiency mode.


There is no FCC narrowbanding exemption for licensees operating on low power equipment or operating on low power channels.


Motorola Products Meet the Narrowbanding Mandate:


12.5 kHz Efficiency -


All Motorola radios certified by the FCC after February 14, 1997 meet the 12.5 kHz capability requirement. See Appendix 1 for a list of all radios capable of operating in 12.5 kHz efficiency. Some additional radio equipment may meet or be modified to meet he 12.5 kHz efficiency requirement. Licensees should check with their Motorola representative.


6.25 kHz Efficiency -


The FCC has NOT set any date by which licensees must operate in 6.25 kHz efficiency in these bands. Considering the FCC allowed over 15 years between 12.5 kHz efficiency equipment certification and mandated licensee use, and licensees are still migrating to 12.5 kHz efficiency, we believe the FCC will not set a deadline mandating licensee use of 6.25 kHz efficiency for many years. Any FUTURE 6.25 kHz efficiency deadline will include a 6.25 kHz equivalent efficiency option just as the 12.5 kHz efficiency deadline includes a 12.5 kHz equivalent efficiency option today.


The FCC has encouraged licensees to consider the feasibility of migrating directly from 25 kHz technology to 6.25 kHz efficiency systems prior to January 1, 2013. For those users that want to implement even greater efficiency than the 12.5 kHz efficiency required by the FCC, Motorola is currently shipping two complete product families that already meet any FUTURE FCC decision for licensees to operate in a 6.25 kHz equivalent efficiency mode. The Motorola ASTRO® 25 product line for the mission critical public safety market and the MOTOTRBO product line for the commerce and enterprise markets are 6.25 kHz efficiency capable today. In addition, these products meet the current FCC requirements for licensees to operate in a 12.5 kHz efficiency mode by January 1, 2013, and the January 1, 2011 manufacturer deadline requiring all new products certified after that date to include a 6.25 kHz efficiency mode.


Both can operate at two voice paths in a 12.5 kHz channel, using a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) protocol, and have been certified by the FCC. This technology allows licensees to double the capacity of their existing 12.5 kHz channel. Licensees must file a modification application through a certified frequency coordinator to change their emission designator to indicate 2 slot on 12.5 kHz TDMA (similar to the above instructions for converting to 12.5 kHz efficiency).


Preparing to Meet the Narrowbanding Mandate:


The 12.5 kHz deadline for new applications or existing license modifications is less than one year away. The deadline for all licensees operating in at least 12.5 kHz efficiency is less than three years away. Here are some suggested preparations licensees should start right now:


- Take an inventory of your radios. Equipment purchased during the last ten years likely is dualmode 25/12.5 kHz so converting should be a simple process of disabling the 25 kHz mode. Older equipment will likely need replacement. See Appendix 1 for a list of Motorola radios that meet this requirement under Narrowbanding FAQs.

- If you have pagers on your system, verify whether or not they are operating on "paging only" channels. (See above exemption).


- Develop budget requirements and explore funding options.


- Establish a conversion and implementation schedule.


- Coordinate your conversion with neighboring public safety agencies to facilitate continued interoperability among your agencies.


- Conduct tests during conversion to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage. Determine if transmitter site changes or additions will be required to compensate for possible coverage changes.


- Contact your Motorola representative for further information and assistance to ensure that your radio system meets the FCC narrowbanding deadlines and requirements.


Narrowbanding Compliance:


1. The FCC will consider any radio equipment that does not meet the 12.5 kHz efficiency requirement by January 1, 2013 to be operating in violation of the FCC rules. Licensees cannot operate radio equipment in 25 kHz efficiency on a secondary basis after that date. All violations are subject to FCC enforcement action, which may include FCC admonishment, monetary fines, and loss of license. The FCC can require licensees to verify that they are operating in compliance with the narrowbanding rules.


2. Licensees of dual mode 25 kHz/12.5 kHz and multi-mode radio equipment, operating in multiple authorized bandwidths, must ensure that the 25 kHz efficiency mode is disabled prior to January 1, 2013. Newer Motorola radios enable modes of operating primarily through software, rather than firmware or hardware. The FCC will consider licensees to be in compliance if the 25 kHz efficiency mode is disabled via software and the radio user cannot reactivate the 25 kHz efficiency mode. Licensees should check with their Motorola representative to determine how best to ensure
that the equipment is operating in the 12.5 kHz mode.


3. Similarly, manufacturers can continue to manufacture or import dual/multi-mode radio equipment after January 1, 2011 only if the modes of operation are enabled primarily through software and radio users are not provided the programming software necessary to activate the 25 kHzefficiency mode.


4. Licensees already operating at 12.5 kHz efficiency do not need to take any action to notify the FCC that their radio equipment already meets the narrowbanding requirement.


5. Licensees of dual/multi-mode radio equipment that are migrating from 25kHz efficiency to 12.5 kHz efficiency must file a modification application to either add a 12.5 kHz emission designator orchange the 25 kHz emission designator to a 12.5 emission designator. Licensees must file applications for adding or modifying a licensed emission designator through a certified frequency coordinator. Adding or changing an emission designator does not require licensees to file a new construction modification.


6. Licensees of dual/multi-mode radio equipment that are authorized to operate on their assigned frequencies with multiple authorized bandwidths, including both 25 kHz emissions and 12.5 kHz emissions, do not need to modify the license to delete the 25 kHz emission to demonstrate narrowbanding compliance. Licensees must ensure that the 25 kHz efficiency mode is disabled prior to the deadline. (See #2. above)


7. Licensees operating or planning to operate 12.5 kHz equivalent equipment on channel widths exceeding 12.5 kHz must file a narrowband compliance certification to certify that they comply or plan to comply with the January 1, 2013 deadline. The FCC will further define this certification requirement.


8. Licensees must replace by January 1, 2013 all radio equipment that is only capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency (i.e., equipment that is not capable of operating at 12.5 kHz or greater efficiency).