Friday, August 24, 2012

Narrowbanding FAQ

What is narrowbanding? Narrowbanding is a nationwide effort to shift private sector and public safety radios users from using 25 kHz technology to 12.5 kHz technology. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is requiring all systems that operate in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) bands to transition from the wideband 25 kHz to narrowband 12.5 kHz.

Why narrowband? The narrowbanding process has been in the works since 1992. The FCC recognized a need to create more channel capacity in the same spectrum, as demand for additional channels was growing. Spectrum is a limited resource so narrowbanding is necessary to fulfill the need for more channel capacity.

How does narrowbanding impact Cumberland County?
1. Cumberland County will transition from current EMS dispatch paging and alerting on UHF wideband frequency (Med 10) to a new UHF narrowband frequency.

2. Narrowband of the current Med 10 frequency will drawback the effective range of pager alerting. Cumberland County will need to add an additional radio site for narrowband paging and alerting.

3. Need to transition dispatch operations to another frequency licensed to the County which has a higher power output

What services will be impacted by narrowbanding? EMS agencies in Cumberland County will be the only services impacted by narrowbanding. This is due to the UHF frequency that is utilized for paging and alerting EMS agencies in the county.

How will narrowbanding impact EMS agencies?
1. Rebanding will impact the functionality of EMS agency paging and alerting devices. Current Motorola Minitor V pagers are capable of a retune to narrowband operations. Older pagers and most station alerting devices are not capable of this retune and will need to be replaced with new equipment. If not replaced, these devices may not activate, even if retuned for the new frequency.

2. EMS agencies should assess their current pager and station alerting device inventories and identify those devices that should be replaced and determine how best to accomplish this before the move to the new dispatch frequency. Motorola Minitor V’s are on PA-COSTARS and an option to consider. Once the new dispatch frequency is operational the county will arrange station visits to reprogram the pagers to the new frequency and tone combination if applicable. Once the station is visited, the agency dispatch will move to the new frequency. Agencies should insure pagers requiring re-programming be available on day of station visit.

What happens if Cumberland County does not meet narrowbanding requirments?
The FCC has made it very clear that no extensions will be given on narrowbanding and all agencies must comply by January 1, 2013. Failure to comply can result in penalties including admonishment, monetary fines and loss of license. Failure by EMS organizations to update paging and alerting devices may result in paging and alerting failures.

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