As I hope you are all aware, the FCC is making all fire departments, police departments and any other business, organization or licensee of an existing Part 90 radio system operating on frequencies between 150-512Mhz to switch from wideband to narrow band. The reason? To increase the number of available frequencies for general use, the more frequencies, the less frequency congestion. Simply put, once everyone switches to narrow band, there will be double the frequencies.
These changes occurred in 1995, when congress mandated all federal agencies to become narrowbanded in 2005. Public/private radio frequencies by 2013 and the narrowband (12.5kHz) will again be divided in half to an even narrower frequency of 6.24kHz.
So you are on wideband, what happens if you don’t switch to narrowband? Interference, which is the cause of most current communication problems. Channels are either programmed for narrow or wideband, and do not work concurrently, making your old wideband radios obsolete and worthless. If your radios are 6-8 years old the chances are that they have the technology for the switch, but will have to be reprogrammed to work on the new narrowband frequencies.
To obtain new or modified licenses you will have to make the switch. Look at your license from the FCC, on the far right under “Emission Designator” if the first two digits are greater than 11 it will have to be modified. Narrowbanding does not require moving to another frequency band, it just reduces the bandwidth of the channels you are now using.
Now, look across America and all the rural fire/police departments where there is plenty of frequencies for all. Why make everyone do this? The response has come especially after 9/11 in the case of mutual aid on a national emergency; all agencies would be able to communicate with one another. That’s great, but at what cost.
The price for radios, portable and stationary, plus pagers is a huge price tag for small, rural fire/police departments. They have to spend their money on becoming narrowbanded, when they don’t need to and have been saving and budgeting for other, more important items. If you are in a metropolitan area and need more frequencies than narrowbanding is needed. Otherwise, it is absolutely ignorant of our politicians to force this upon everyone throughout the country. They forget about the small rural people and the impact it has on us, especially in this current economic climate.
Of course, they say get grant money! Way easier said, than done. So this is a friendly reminder to those who haven’t begun to think ahead about having to switch over. Start budgeting, fundraising or grant writing, for those new radios can’t operate without them.