Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Federal Mandate for Municipal Radio Services

The United States Federal Commissions Commission (FCC) is tasked with ensuring that communications needs of the nation are met. With regards to Public Safety Radio Systems, this means that communications down to local police, fire and public works services are met. Just as civilian radio services have grown from simple walkie-talkies to Cell Phones, Wi-Fi and GPS just to name a few, the needs of local public services have as well.

In December 2004 the FCC has mandated that Land Mobile Radio (LMR), which includes Public Service Radio service move to narrowband voice chanels in order to provide more room for more traffic and expanded radio communication services. What this means is that:

- Existing radio equipment, including base stations, in-vehicle radios and handheld units must be upgraded;
- Licenses for voice services must be either modified or added to operate the radios under narrowband voice channels.

The challenges are tremendous. The cost of upgrading the equipment is not trivial as a nearby town has budgeted $500,000 to upgrade the equipment. Even without the economic pressure municipalities are currently under, it is a sizeable budget item. Unfortunately, buying equipment is the easy part. Radio frequencies are obtained through authorized frequency coordinators; there is no guarantee that existing services can be maintained, let alone expanded, if the request is placed at the last minute.


Pamphlet - "When They can't talk, lives are lost"
Narrowbanding Brochure
APCO Article: The VHF/UHF Narrowband Mandate
Department of Justice Document
APCO Primer