FCC Denies Utility’s 900 MHz Request, Grants Oil Refinery's 900 MHz Waiver
Friday, September 13, 2019 | Comments

The FCC denied a waiver request from a Midwest utility but granted a separate waiver request from a Texas oil refinery.

The commission denied a request from Kansas City Power & Light Company (KCPL) to permit it to use its 896 ¬– 901/935 – 940 MHz LMR stations for fixed supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) operations.

Due to consolidation with other electric utilities, KCPL now meets its LMR communications needs with a VHF system rather than the 900 MHz system. KCPL stated that it needs to modernize and enhance its aging SCADA system, which relies on copper lines leased from a third party that intends to retire them. The company therefore proposed redeploying its authorized 900 MHz channels in a fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint wireless system.

“We conclude that it would not be in the public interest to authorize a new 900 MHz fixed system on a significant number of channels in a major metropolitan area while the commission considers proposed rule changes to realign this land mobile band to support the provision of broadband service,” the order said.

The FCC said it is unclear whether KCPL’s contemplated fixed system would involve changes in frequencies, locations or other technical parameters that would require waivers of the 900 MHz freeze. Furthermore, KCPL did not suggest other options it explored to meet its SCADA needs other than the proposed 900 MHz system.

The full order is here.

Separately, the FCC granted a waiver request from Flint Hills Resources Corpus Christi (FHR) for 896 – 901/935 – 940 MHz business/industrial/land transportation channels and a waiver form the current 900 MHz application freeze.

FHR is a refining, chemical and biofuel company that employs a 900 MHz radio system for day-to-day and emergency communications at its three facilities in Corpus Christi, Texas. In addition, the 900 MHz system is used for emergency communications by the Refinery Terminal Fire Co., a non-profit private cooperative that protects 55 local facilities. FHR’s system is licensed for a total of 33 channels at four sites.

FHR’s legacy narrowband 900 MHz system relies on equipment and software that have been discontinued and are no longer supported by the manufacturers. The utility plans to replace the legacy system with a new 900 MHz system, which it plans to implement in parallel with the existing system to ensure uninterrupted service.

Most of FHR’s current 900 MHz narrowband channels are located in the 3-by-3 megahertz segment that would transition to broadband use under the commission’s proposal. All of the new channels requested by FHR would be located in the segments that would continue to be used for narrowband operations under the commission’s proposal. FHR argues that grant of its applications and waiver requests would eliminate the need to re-build its communications system twice. The company said it will return all 33 licensed 900 MHz channels to the FCC after it transitions to the new system.

“Because FHR will cancel its existing 900 MHz licenses after the new system is operational, the effect on the 900 MHz licensing landscape will be limited, and ultimately there will be no net increase in 900 MHz channels held by FHR as a result of granting these waiver requests,” the FCC said. “Thus, the purpose of the freeze would not be served by application to the present case.”

The FHR order is here.

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