700 MHz Narrowbanding Deadline Eliminated, Spectrum Prioritized for T-Band Licensees (10/28/14)
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | Comments

In new 700 MHz narrowband spectrum rules, the FCC eliminated the 700 MHz narrowbanding deadline, reallocated reserve spectrum for T-band licensees, and encouraged Project 25 (P25) Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) certification by manufacturers and licensees.

The FCC did away with the 6.25-kilohertz narrowbanding deadline for 700 MHz spectrum in a report and order with updated rules for the public-safety 700 MHz narrowband spectrum. The 700 MHz narrowbanding deadline was Jan. 1, 2017. The decision allows public-safety officials who were in limbo awaiting a decision to move forward with equipment purchases and network decisions.

Public-safety licensees have been anticipating the narrowbanding order. Louisiana received a waiver of the 700 MHz narrowbanding deadline, and several others including Arkansas submitted waiver requests to the FCC.

The order said eliminating the 700 MHz narrowbanding requirement “will enable licensees to extend the life of existing systems and will provide public safety with greater flexibility in determining the optimal future use of the band.”

The commission also released reserve spectrum to provide additional capacity, particularly for licensees relocating to the 700 MHz band from the UHF T-band. According to the rules, T-band public-safety licensees have priority for licensing the former reserve channels, reallocated to general use channels, in T-band areas.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 required public-safety licensees in the UHF T-band spectrum to relocate out of the spectrum within nine years with relocation to be completed two years after the spectrum is competitively bid. Proceeds from auctions will be used to cover the costs to relocate the affected public-safety licensees, the bill says.

The order also revised and updated the technical rules for the 700 MHz band to enhance interoperability and open certain channels to new uses. Specifically, the FCC redesignated channels in the 700 MHz band that are currently licensed for secondary trunking operations for public-safety aircraft voice operations, consistent with a 2010 National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) proposal. The FCC also allowed voice operations on data interoperability channels on a secondary basis.

The new order has the potential to give renewed vigor to the P25 CAP. The FCC encouraged manufacturers of 700 MHz public-safety radios to obtain P25 CAP certification for new equipment to demonstrate that the equipment meets P25 interoperability standards as required by Section 90.548 of the commission’s rules. CAP certification will presumptively establish compliance with Section 90.528; manufacturers that elect not to obtain CAP certification must disclose their basis for asserting compliance.

The commission also encouraged public-safety licensees to incorporate CAP into their solicitations for supporting equipment.

In addition, the rules recommend, but don’t require, that 700 MHz radios operating on interoperability calling channels employ the P25 Network Access Code (NAC) #293. The FCC clarified that 700 MHz radios must be capable of being programmed to any of the 64 interoperability channels, but that all interoperability channels don’t have to be accessible to the radio’s user. The rules also clarified that analog operation is not allowed on the 700 MHz interoperability channels.

In addition, the order adopted rules governing the spectral output of signal boosters when simultaneously retransmitting multiple signals. The commission also adopted effective radiated power (ERP) as a regulatory parameter in this band, in place of transmitter power output (TPO).

The rules declined to establish a Nationwide Interoperability Travel Channel and declined to increase the permissible 2-watt ERP for radios operating on the mobile-only low-power channels.

In 2013, the FCC proposed updating the 700 MHz narrowband technical rules, which were adopted in 1998 as part of the digital TV transition. The new report and order is available here.

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