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The Conversion Process

With help from a qualified two-way radio communications consultant such as BearCom, users can begin the internal business process of budgeting for and procuring any new narrowband-capable replacement radios, as well as creating a wideband-to-narrowband conversion plan that embraces the appropriate logistical and implementation strategies.

First, apply for the appropriate FCC license. This, however, is not a slam dunk, according to the FCC. "An agency that is licensed for a 25 kHz wide channel is not guaranteed two 12.5 kHz channels," the FCC wrote in its recent notice. "Licensees will have to justify to the FCC why they need additional channels. Consideration of applications for new narrowband licenses will follow the same process as a new license application. As agencies migrate to narrowband operation, however, the pool of available frequencies will increase."

Given the challenges, a two-way radio consultant has almost become a necessity. If the user already works closely with a radio provider, he/she may not need to look any further.

An effective consultant should be able to demonstrate all of the following attributes: 

  • Long history in RF communications
  • Certified technicians and engineers
  • Ability to assist with FCC frequency coordination, regardless of the size of the user's operation and radio fleet

Start Planning Now

Ian Torok, Director of Technical Services at BearCom, suggests that users should be careful not to wait until the last minute to develop a migration plan to narrowband systems. "As the 2013 deadline looms closer, wireless providers will be busy assisting their current and new customers with new system designs and new radio purchases. Also, when the deadline passes and users are caught operating out of compliance, they risk losing their current FCC license, and reapplying can be costly and very time consuming," says Torok. And operating out of license and out of regulation will be costly. "The FCC has yet to specify how much," Torok notes.

Torok recommends following these steps:

  1. Take inventory. Review current equipment to determine what can be converted to 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replaced before January 1, 2013. Most new equipment has the capability for both 25 kHz and 12.5 kHz operation because any VHF/UHF radio equipment accepted by the FCC after February 14, 1997 had to have 12.5 kHz capability. Contact your narrowbanding consultant to determine if your radio equipment is capable of operating in the 12.5 kHz mode.
  2. Develop budget requirements, explore funding options, and establish a conversion and implementation schedule. Include studies to ensure 12.5 kHz operation continues to provide similar coverage. Once you determine possible equipment conversion needs, start developing funding and conversion schedules. Remember to coordinate your conversion with neighboring agencies and/or other affected organizations to help maintain continued interoperability.
  3. Obtain new or modified licenses. In addition to operating on narrowbanded equipment, users must be properly licensed by the FCC with the correct emissions designator. Contact your narrowbanding consultant for assistance.

For more information about narrowbanding, such as why spectrum efficiency is important, who is impacted, what it will cost, and the conversion process, please download BearCom's free narrowbanding white paper, call BearCom at 800.527.1670, or contact one of BearCom's 26 local branches.

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