Narrowband channels allow additional channels to exist in the same spectrum. Source: USDOJ

Narrowband channels allow additional channels to exist in the same spectrum. Source: USDOJ

What is Narrowbanding?

Narrowbanding is an FCC-mandated change that will reduce channel spacing by 50% and will, in effect, make your frequency more narrow.

It applies to all VHF High Band (150-174 MHz) and UHF (420 to 512 MHz) systems.

The mandate will cause all licensees operating in these frequencies to reduce the bandwidth of their systems, creating space for additional systems in the same amount of spectrum.

When must VHF High Band and UHF systems be narrowbanded?

Per the FCC, all systems must be operating in narrow bandwidth mode by January 1st, 2013.

A suggested regional target date for completion has been set as August 1st, 2012 by the SOSINK interoperability committee. Some fire departments expressed concerns about narrowbanding too early compared to their neighbors; this target date was set to give agencies something to plan for, but it is not mandatory.

Common Misconceptions Explained

  • Narrowbanding does not affect 800MHz or the BRICS 800MHz voice system.
  • Narrowbanding is not the same thing as 800MHz rebanding.
  • Narrowbanding does not affect 700MHz or low band VHF.

Does this affect Butler County?

If your community uses:

VHF High Band or UHF for public works, tornado sirens or other applications
Fire alerting on your own VHF High band or UHF system
Butler County’s fire alerting frequency on VHF High Band

…narrowbanding applies to you.

What do we need to do?

If you maintain your own VHF High Band or UHF system, it will likely need to be upgraded or modified by 2013 to operate in narrowband mode.

Your radios, pagers and firehouse receivers, if they are narrowband-capable, will need to be reprogrammed when the system is upgraded. If your radios and pagers are not narrowband capable, they will need to be replaced.

The Minitor V is the only narrowband capable Motorola fire pager. Minitor I through IV will need to be replaced. We are aware of two other brands that offer a narrowband capable fire pager.

Any radio purchased since 1998 should be capable of narrowband operation and software programmable for narrowband use.

Contact your radio dealer or contact us to find out if your current radios are capable of narrowbanding.

Narrowbanding could be expensive! Start planning now. You will need money budgeted in 2011 or sooner; 2012 is the latest year for implementation.


APCO: Narrowbanding Order from the FCC

Narrowband Compliant Equipment List
List of compliant radios from the National Technology Center, USAF Civil Air Patrol

Understanding FCC Narrowbanding Requirements

For Users of the BRICS Fire Paging VHF Channel (154.370)

BRICS staff will coordinate with the users of the county fire paging VHF channel (including those dispatched by BCSO, Oxford, Trenton and West Chester) to make sure everyone is prepared for the change. It is, however, the local agency’s responsibility to ensure they have or will purchase the proper radio and pager equipment by the date specified for narrowband operation.

Users will be made aware, in advance, of the particular date the county intends to convert the system infrastructure to narrowband operation, as it must happen before the required date of 1/1/2013. This date has not specifically been set, but we intend for it to be around the regional target date (August 1st) in the fall.

In April 2011, some agencies planned to work collaboratively on a group fire pager purchase. That information, and information on recommended model numbers, can be found here.

For fire agencies that are now completely staffed with personnel on station: Now may be the time to consider abandoning VHF paging and converting to all 800MHz if you do not need to alert pagers. Your station alerting can be replaced with an 800MHz solution. Contact Bill Vedra at BRICS for more information.