Posts Tagged Federal mandate to switch to narrowband frequencies

Chicago receives extension for narrowbanding

The following is from an article from the Radio ResourceMedia Group:

FCC Grants Narrowbanding Extensions to NYC, Chicago and Philly (12/27/12)
The FCC granted the VHF and UHF narrowbanding waiver requests of three of the nation’s largest cities, just days before the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline.

New York City received separate extension dates for two different components of its radio communications system. The main portion of the UHF system used by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) operates on frequencies in the UHF T-band, for which the Jan. 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline was waived earlier this year. The city also received a waiver for additional non-T-band channels that are operationally integrated with the T-band systems.

New York received separate waivers for certain other systems used by FDNY, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Corrections (DOC) that are not integrated with the city’s T-band systems. DEP received an extension until May 1, 2013. FDNY and DOC received a waiver until Dec. 31, 2014.

New York filed the waiver request in June, and the FCC sought comment in August.

Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, received an extension of the narrowbanding deadline up to and including Jan. 1, 2015. The city has completed narrowbanding for some systems but requests more time for other networks and has prepared budgets and timelines to complete the work.

Philadelphia, the fifth-largest U.S. city, received an extension through Feb. 1, 2014. City officials had requested a deadline of July 1, 2014. Philadelphia filed its waiver request in September.

The article can be found HERE.

thanks Chris

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Chicago preparing for digital changeover

Chris Ranck found an article which looks at one aspect of the upcoming digital radio changes coming to Chicago.

Chicago Has Few Techs, Wants Narrowband Waiver

The third-largest city in the United States has just 16 radio technicians to install and maintain all of its radio systems, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking for public comment on Chicago’s request for 24 more months to narrowband its VHF and UHF radio systems. The FCC received the city’s waiver request (pdf) last May, and now wants input from others, “whose operations could be impacted by the grant of the waiver.” In its 31-page waiver request, Chicago officials noted the city’s size and population, number of visitors and its key commerce and industry role. The city employs 13,000 police officers, 4,500 firefighters and 650 paramedics to provide emergency services. The waiver request notes the various systems and narrowband upgrades the city has already performed: citywide police use a seven-site UHF system (14 new transmitters); “zone” police use a 13-site UHF system (26 new transmitters); and the fire department uses a 16-site system (32 new transmitters). The city has already purchased 15,000 new narrowband radios, the waiver states, and a T-band UHF narrowband network for the fire department is almost complete. “Yet, despite its considerable effort and significant investment to date, Chicago recognizes that it lacks the necessary manpower and resources to finalize the completion of the narrowbanding of all of its VHF/UHF facilities by January 1, 2013,” the waiver says. The city cites “numerous demands on its limited number of radio technicians and the additional burdens on the city’s budget and financial restraints” for not narrowbanding within the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline. Download (pdf) the FCC’s comment request here.

The article can be found HERE, and the full story HERE.

thanks Chris

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Narrowband Radio Switch Deadline Looms

How narrowbanding will affect your scanner listening:

Narrowbanding, required by Jan 2013, will reduce transmission widths to 12.5 KHz efficiency technology (about 11 KHz total deviation above and below the center frequency) as opposed to the 25 KHz efficiency technology currently allowed. Once an agency is narrowbanded, a transmission’s “volume level” or modulation will sound too low on a receiver that is still set to listen to that frequency as a standard FM channel because half of what the scanner wants to hear is no longer there. On older scanners, like the first generation trunk trackers, there is nothing you can do about that, as there is no narrowband setting. But newer scanners will have a narrowband setting called NFM mode.  By switching that frequency to NFM you will “perk up” the volume of that frequency to the range you are used to.

A frequency being monitored in NFM mode that receives a standard FM transmission might sound odd to you. It might sound clipped or lack full vocal range since it is not receiving the complete modulation of that signal. Something else to be aware of is the wideband setting on scanners or WFM mode. WFM should not be confused with the current standard (FM). WFM is an even wider flavor of FM used only by broadcasters. A FM transmission being received in WFM will sound quieter. And a NFM transmission being received in WFM mode will sound extra, extra quiet.

It is possible that not all agencies operating on a specific frequency that you monitor will narrowband at the same time. If that is the case, your listening may become a bit of a roller coaster for the rest of the year but hopefully more like the Whizzer than the Eagle. But some transmitters that you are used to hearing at a certain powerhouse volume are going to lose their punch. A smaller bandwidth coupled in some cases with less ERP (effective radiated power) will result in some dispatch centers simply no longer sounding as clear to you. Hopefully those agencies will still have good coverage within the area they are responsible for.

One benefit to the changeover is that conforming to the new standard has motivated some dispatch centers to add a repeater. In those cases, if you are close enough hear the repeater; you’ll also be able to hear the rig traffic.  Some repeaters will pop up on the channels you are already listening to, while other newly allocated repeater pairs will go live.

Joining the Chicago Area Radio Monitoring Association is a great way to find out about new developments in the world of Chicagoland fire radio. Joining is as simple as signing up for their free Yahoo Group. There is a link to that and to their frequency database (called profiles) on the CARMA website at An excellent list of the current face of Chicagoland fire radio is available at

Happy monitoring!


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Narrowband Radio Switch Deadline Looms

An article found at looks into the high costs of the switch to narrowband radio frequencies and some concerns about the coverage that will come with it.

A federal mandate requiring emergency service providers to switch to narrowband radio frequencies is costing many departments hundreds of thousands of dollars and could result in a 30 percent reduction in coverage area.

Failure to meet the Jan. 1 deadline, set by the Federal Communications Commission, could result in a $16,000 daily fine, said Paul Maplethorpe, treasurer/comptroller for the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.

“I’ve been a communications technician since 1978,” Maplethorpe said. “Based on my experience, it (the switch) will not provide any benefits and will cause a 20 to 30 percent loss of range.”

Danvers Fire Chief Glen Rosecrans said his department is buying repeaters for its trucks to combat the range reduction. Repeaters retransmit radio transmissions through the truck’s higher wattage radio. A repeater system can run about $3,000 per truck.

The FCC mandate, requiring licensees to switch from 25 kHz radio systems to 12.5 kHz channels, was announced in 1995 and is designed to be a more efficient use of VHF and UHF land and mobile bands, allowing more channels to become available. Most radios purchased in the past six to eight years are capable of narrowband and just need to be reprogrammed at a cost of between $40 and $75 per radio.

The entire article can be found HERE.

thanks Dennis

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