FCC’s Radio Mandate: Getting Tuned In

Theresa M. Anderson and Jeffrey Oehm
Posted on June 15, 2010

Jan. 1, 2013, brings a new set of regulations that may affect your radio system. To meet the deadline, do you re-band, re-tune or replace?

As usual, the answer is “yes” and “depends.” Regardless of your approach, all work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2012.

In December 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a mandate that all Part 90 business, educational, industrial, public safety, and state and local government VHF (150-174 megahertz) and UHF (421-512 megahertz) private land mobile radio licensees convert their radio system operations from legacy wideband (25 kilohertz) to narrowband (12.5 kilohertz or equivalent) operations. School buses fall directly under this mandate.

So what does this mean for each operation? The following explanations are intended to provide basic system information. The FCC mandate:

•    Does not require licensees to change to new radio frequencies or different frequency bands.
•    Does not require moving from analog to digital or from a conventional to a trunked radio system.
•    Does not mean that licensees need to replace all current radio system equipment.
•    Does require that all wideband-only conventional or trunked VHF and UHF radios be replaced with narrowband-capable equipment prior to 2013. This includes hand-held portables, vehicle-mounted mobiles, dispatcher stations, wireless data, telemetry, or supervisory control and data acquisition link radios (called subscriber radios) and associated wideband-only conventional or trunked base or repeater stations (called infrastructure radios).
•    Does require that radio system licenses be modified. Schools must verify FCC licensing and meet FCC Part 90. In some cases, a frequency coordinator must be used.
•    Does require replacement of any soon-to-be-non-compliant equipment.

Some states have interoperable systems. Joining these systems can be beneficial to all parties.

For in-depth system or radio info, generally look to an outside source such as a consultant or vendor, as they will determine current and future equipment, system capabilities, a load impact survey (if required) and installation.

As you begin your process, answer these questions:
•    What equipment do you currently have? Analyze your system. Consider doing a system inventory/audit including all school district radios (note all makes and model numbers).
•    What technology is now available? Each radio and each system is customer configurable.
•    What will your funding source be?
•    What frequencies are programmed in your radio? Gather information on your license frequencies and those used under sharing agreements.

Although 2013 is a few years away, now is the time to begin your process, as it will require planning and budgeting to meet the deadline.

For more information about types of systems, such as radio-to-radio, conventional repeater, single-site trunked, DTRS (multi-site), cellular and project management, contact:
•    Theresa M. Anderson, Anderson Consulting LLC, [email protected]. (720) 979-4039.
•    Jeffrey Oehm, The Oehm Group, [email protected], (303) 929-3119.                                                                            

Related Topics: two-way radios

Comments ( 9 )
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  • Richard Caserta

     | about 2 years ago

    How do I get my school bus radio freq for Monongalia county, West Virginia?

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