FCC Amends 700 MHz Narrowband Rules, Requires P25 Interoperability
Monday, February 12, 2018 | Comments

In a second report and order, the FCC amended and clarified its 700 MHz narrowband (769 – 775/799 – 805 MHz) interoperability and technical rules.

The order specifically amends and clarifies the rules to exempt 700 MHz low-power vehicular repeater systems (VRS) from trunking requirements. The FCC requested input in 2016.

The order also amends the rules to ensure that 700 MHz public-safety licensees receive information on vendor assertions that equipment is interoperable across vendors and complies with Project 25 (P25) standards. Finally, the FCC amended the rules to require that all narrowband mobile and portable 700 MHz public-safety radios, as supplied to the user, must be capable of operating on all of the narrowband nationwide interoperability channels without addition of hardware, firmware or software, and must be interoperable across vendors and operate in conformance with P25 standards.

All commenters supported exempting VRS systems from the trunking rule to provide public safety with needed flexibility to meet operational needs and because of the technical challenges associated with trunking VRS systems. The FCC agreed and amended Section 90.537 of the rules to exempt 700 MHz VRS systems from the trunking requirement.

Regarding interoperability, the FCC made Section 90.548(d) apply only to transceivers capable of conventional operation on the 700 MHz narrowband interoperability channels listed in Section 90.531(b)(1). Second, the FCC said Section 90.548(d) of the rule covers mobiles, portables and repeaters and revised 90.548(d) to reference the interoperability testing rules in Sections 2.1033(c)(20) and 90.548(c). The FCC also reduced the list of feature sets and capabilities subject to testing requirements to baseline functions that support conventional voice interoperability. The revised rules reference Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) standards and testing procedures that have been available to manufacturers for several years.

“The net result of these changes is to simplify the rules and lessen any burden they impose on manufacturers, public safety and end users,” the order said. “To further minimize potential costs on stakeholders, we decline to expand the scope of new Section 90.548(d) to cover non-voice interoperability testing.”

The FCC clarified that all 700 MHz narrowband radios must be supplied to the end user with the capability of being programmed to any of the interoperability channels without the need for additional hardware, firmware or software.

Regarding timing, the FCC said new equipment must comply with the updated testing requirements upon the effective date of the revisions adopted in the new order to Section 90.548; only the effective date of the information collection requirements will be delayed an additional 30 days.

The full order is here.

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