Most Licensees Haven’t Completed Narrowbanding
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 | Comments
Based on survey results released and discussed during the FCC’s VHF and UHF narrowbanding workshop held Jan. 26, many licensees haven’t begun the process of transitioning to 12.5-kilohertz operations.
Preliminary results from a survey conducted by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPST) found that many jurisdictions are narrowband capable, but are still operating in wideband mode; few licensees have totally converted to narrowband operation. Repeaters and base stations pose a big problem, even if mobiles and portables are ready. Most respondents need to purchase some additional equipment before the Jan 1, 2013, deadline.
NPSTC Chair Ralph Haller presented early results of the 11-question survey covering nine subject areas developed by NPSTC. More than 600 responses had been submitted.
Most of the respondents had established timetables for narrowbanding, and cited funding as an obstacle to meet their deadlines. The costs for narrowbanding ranged from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars, according to the preliminary data. Many licensees are looking for grants to pay for narrowbanding, although some have partial funding in place. Volunteer fire departments need donations to meet the mandate.
Nearly half of respondents said they plan to file waivers to get more time for narrowbanding, with many undecided. FCC officials said at the workshop that waivers would be held to a high standard and not routinely granted for narrowbanding.
Narrowbanding is affecting interoperability, with respondents noting that interoperability suffers if not all users are narrowbanded, and communications range could be reduced. The majority of the NPSTC survey respondents said they aren’t migrating to 700/800 MHz instead of narrowbanding in current VHF and UHF spectrum because of propagation issues with 700/800 MHz, interoperability with neighboring jurisdictions and the high cost to migrate to different frequencies.
Motorola Survey
Motorola conducted a survey of its customers, said Chuck Jackson, Motorola Solutions vice president of North America government and commercial markets. The Motorola survey found 163,000 licensees and 249,000 call signs that still require narrowbanding. Of that call sign number, about one-third (77,000) who need to narrowband are public-safety licensees, and 70 percent (172,000) are business/industrial licensees.
In response to a question asking respondents if they are aware of the mandate, 16 percent said they are unaware of it. Another 15 percent said they are aware of the mandate but don’t have plans in place to address it. About 44 percent said they are aware and have plans in place, and 25 percent said they are already compliant with the mandate.
More public-safety licensees are aware of the mandate and have met it or have plans to meet it (84 percent) than business/industrial licensees (59 percent), according to the Motorola results to date.
APCO Survey
A December survey by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International showed more than 70,000 licenses have not added narrowband emission. For example, Connecticut reports 70 percent of licensees have not added narrowband emissions. California shows more than 8,200 licenses and Alabama shows more than 2,200 licenses that aren’t yet narrowbanded, said Farokh Latif, director of APCO’s spectrum management division.
Wisconsin and Illinois are two states that have established migration schedules through their state interoperability executive council (SIEC) policies for all input/output (I/O) channels. Latif cited several narrowbanding factors, including a lack of communications among agencies when converting and a lack of feedback indicating that a system has been narrowbanded. He also cited a lack of qualified technicians, coverage and simulcast issues, and funding impacts. 
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