If you follow the news on narrowbanding—as I’m sure you do—then you’ve read lately about T-Band and a story so complicated it could only have been written in our nation’s capital. Well, if you don’t know the T-Band from the T-Bird, let me explain what happened.
The T-Band is 470-512 MHz spectrum currently used by public safety licensees. Those users, and presumably the business/industrial users there as well, will have to clear out within 11 years under provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. That new law calls for a 700 MHz public safety broadband network, and to make up for the revenue lost from that band, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has to auction the T-Band spectrum to commercial users within nine years. (A more detailed explanation by Al Ittner appears in the ”Fresh Ideas in Two-Way Communications” blog from Motorola Solutions.)
Now we’re all familiar with the narrowbanding mandate from the FCC that requires companies and public agencies that use two-way radios to employ 12.5 kHz narrowband technology. Users must modify their FCC licenses and, when appropriate, reprogram or replace existing equipment to meet the narrowbanding requirement. The deadline to comply is January 1, 2013, and users who don’t make the switch face potential fines and even possibly the loss of their communication capabilities.
So T-Band users were being told they may have to invest now in new equipment to comply with the narrowbanding mandate only to be moved off the T-Band later. That situation was addressed in the FCC order dated April 25 in which the agency said, “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.”
Complicating matters further still, the FCC on the same day froze new applications for the T-Band and hasn’t said where on the spectrum those users will eventually land. This uncertainty was not lost on Mark Crosby of the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), who wrote on his blog, “I sincerely doubt that requiring public safety, business, industrial, and commercial entities to vacate their T-Band frequencies with no promise of comparable spectrum or adequate compensation, and auctioning this spectrum a decade from now, balances anything at the end of the day.”
So what should two-way radio users make of all this? Al Ittner’s Motorola blog post offers good advice:
- Remember that there is no FCC extension of the January 1 narrowbanding deadline for any licensees in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-470 MHz (UHF) bands.
- For users with systems that operate on both the 421-470 MHz and 470-512 MHz channels, the FCC narrowbanding deadline still applies to the 421-470 MHz channels.
- The FCC will not allow equipment providers to continue to manufacture or import 25 kHz equipment beyond the January 1 deadline for use in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-470 MHz (UHF) bands.
“Don’t get caught off guard,” Ittner writes in the post. “The FCC will not accept licensee arguments that claim confusion over what bands this T-Band waiver order applies to. It only applies to those licensees in the 11 major metropolitan areas operating in the 470-512 MHz band.”
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