If you don’t think you can meet the January 1, 2013 deadline, NOW is the time to ask for a waiver.

Do you operate a commercial or public safety private land mobile radio system in the VHF (150-170 MHz) or UHF (450-470 MHz) bands?  If so, you must convert your systems to “narrowband” operation by January 1, 2013.  If you don’t, you face the possibility of interference from other users, FCC fines, or losing your license.  If you can’t make the switch by the deadline, now is the time to seek a waiver from the FCC to ask for an extension

Licensees have been on notice for about ten years of the impending narrowbanding deadline.  Most radios purchased since the late 1990s already have narrowband capability (i.e., they operate on 12.5 kHz channels or equivalent efficiency) and only need to be reprogrammed.  However, most older radios are destined for the trash heap.

The FCC will entertain requests for temporary waivers of the deadline.  Last year, the FCC spelled out what it wants to see in a waiver request, including reasons why the licensee cannot meet the deadline, its funding requirements, a description of what steps have been taken so far to comply, a schedule of work that must still be completed, and evidence that the delay will not harm other licensees in the region.

Until last week, land mobile radio licensees in the so-called “T-Band” (470-512 MHz) were also subject to the narrowband deadline (broadcasting industry readers may recognize the band as the home of TV channels 14-20, which is shared with land mobile radio in 11 major metropolitan areas).  However, since Congress has now mandated that spectrum occupied by public safety licenses in the T-Band be auctioned within nine years, the FCC relieved all licensees in that band of any narrowbanding obligations.  On the flip side, the FCC also imposed a freeze on applications for new T-Band systems and certain modifications to existing systemsIn a nutshell, the freeze bars any modifications that would expand the service area of a T-band system; it does not preclude adding units to existing systems or making other changes that do not expand the system’s service area.