27 April 2012

FCC waves narrow band requirements for "T band"

"In this Order, we waive...the January 1, 2013 deadline for private land mobile radio licensees in the 470-512 MHz band to migrate to narrowband technology... We take this action in light of recent legislation directing the Commission to reallocate spectrum in the 470-512 MHz band."

Read the FCC release here.

This is huge for LA County Fire and the LASD, who were holding off on narrow banding their UHF systems since congress has decided to reallocate the 470-512MHz spectrum. What is the point of replacing millions of dollars of equipment to comply with the 2013 narrow band requirements when less then a decade down the road it will all have to be replaced with new equipment because of recent legislation that was part of the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012".

The only thing I can see that radio systems have to do with "Job Creation" is creating jobs at the big M, however inside the act is a whole section on public safety communications and spectrum management. The MCTRJA includes a provision that, no later than nine years after the date of enactment, (2021) the FCC shall reallocate the T-band (470-512 MHz) currently used by public safety. This means that LAPD, LASD, LACoFD, ICIS, and a majority of municipal public safety in Los Angeles County will have to move from the T-band to either VHF or 700/800.

You can read a summary of the MCTRJA here. The part containing public safety radio and spectrum reallocation begins at Title VI.

The 470-512 spectrum is to be auctioned off by the NTIA to establish a national public safety interoperability broadband network which will be operated by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) A system like this has been in the works since 9-11, but many feel that it is a pipe dream and really just a giant boondoggle since you can always spend more money adding to the network, increasing network performance, etc. It's the kind of thing that will get more funding as more problems arise, meanwhile existing comms systems in LA, NY, Chicago, and several other major cities will have to start from square one.

Correction: The FirstNet broadband network will be placed in the 700MHz "D block" spectrum, and the T-band is to be auctioned off (probably to telecommunications companies) as most of the 700 MHz band was in 2008.

I have heard from several people who currently maintain systems that are in the T-band range they have strong doubts that they will be kicked off their frequencies, even though the FCC has stopped "acceptance and processing of certain applications 90 services operating in the T-band,” but only time will tell. At least for now LA County Fire and Sheriff's can stick with their old wideband gear.

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