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Fisher Wireless works closely with a licensed frequency coordinator on current FCC licensing requirements. We can assist you with new applications, renewals, relocations, and modifications as well as help you prepare for the future. We feel it is important to make you aware of an FCC Licensing change that could effect your business communications, and that is the requirement to move to narrowband 12.5kHz.

The FCC Narrowbanding Mandate:
What You Need to Know to Assure Radio Communications in 2013

FCC Narrowbanding Mandate

What is Narrowbanding?

Private land mobile radio (LMR) systems - including municipal government and State and local public safety systems - use blocks of radio spectrum called channels. Historically, LMR systems have used 25 kHz-wide channels. In December 2004, the Federal Communications Commission mandated that all private LMR users operating between 150 and 512 MHz move to 12.5 kHz narrowband voice channels and highly efficient data channel operations by January 1, 2013. This migration complements a National Telecommunications and Information Administration mandate for more rapid Federal agency migration to 12.5 kHz narrowband operation by January 1, 2008. The earlier Federal deadline affects State and local FCC licensees that interface or share frequencies with Federal radio systems.

Using narrowband channels will ensure that agencies take advantage of more efficient technology and, by reducing channel width, will allow additional channels to exist within the same spectrum space, as illustrated in figure 1.

narrowband channels

Figure 1: Narrowband channels allow additional channels to exist in the same spectrum.

Who is Affected:

The FCC Narrowbanding rules affect all operators of land mobile radios (LMR) that use channels between:

  • 150 and 174 MHz
  • 421 and 512 MHz

Deadlines / Key Dates:

To phase in the migration deadline of January 1, 2013, the FCC has established interim deadlines.

The first important deadline is January 1, 2011 after which:

  • The FCC will not grant applications for new voice operations or applications to expand the authorized contour of existing stations that use 25 kHz channels. Only narrowband authorizations will be granted.
  • New system applications must be 12.5 kHz or less
  • No 25 kHz system expansion permitted
  • MOTOTRBO™ meets this requirement

January 1, 2013

  • All existing licenses must operate on channels with a bandwidth of 12.5 KHz or less (narrowband). Failure to comply with the January 1, 2013 deadline may result in cancellation of license.
  • I/B and PS 150-512 MHz incumbents must migrate to 12.5/12.5 kHz (e) or less
  • The FCC will prohibit manufacture or importation of new equipment that operates on 25 kHz channels.
  • New equipment submitted for FCC type-acceptance must be cabable of operating in 6.25 kHz mode.
  • It is unclear what happens to licensed 25 kHz systems after this date certain

Land Mobile Radio Systems still using wideband channels as of January 1, 2013, risk the following:

  • Loss of Radio Communications
  • Substantial FCC Fines
  • Revocation of FCC Licenses

Planning for the Move to Narrowband

Land Mobile Radio System Operators (both public safety and nonpublic safety) need to aggressively develop a strategy to meet narrowband deadlines to avoid cancellation of existing wideband FCC authorizations. Although the migration deadline may seem far off, the long lead time and interim deadlines make it necessary for you to plan well in advance.

Assess Current Equipment and Start Planning.

To prepare for the migration, organizations should start assessing their radio systems and planning for replacements or upgrades. They should inventory their current equipment to ascertain what can be converted to 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replaced before January 1, 2013. Most new equipment has the capability for both 25 kHz and 12.5 kHz operation because any VHF/UHF radio equipment accepted by the FCC after February 14, 1997, had to have 12.5 kHz capability. The 12.5 kHz narrowband equipment is available in both conventional analog FM and digital formats (such as Project 25), so narrowband conventional FM systems will be compliant. Local governments should develop contingency plans to accommodate system changes for both public safety and nonpublic safety systems.

Obtain New or Modified Licenses.

To move to narrowband operations, organizations must apply for new frequencies or modify existing licenses. An organization that is licensed for a 25 kHz-wide channel is not guaranteed two 12.5 kHz channels. Licensees will have to justify to the FCC why they need additional channels. Consideration of applications for new narrowband licenses will follow the same process as a new license application. As organizations migrate to narrowband operation, however, the pool of available frequencies will increase.

Motorola Radios that are Not Narrowband Capable

Radio equipment manufacturers have been aware of the pending narrowband mandate since 1997 and most of the equipment purchased in the last five years will be capable of changing to narrowband operation simply by reprogramming. 

Motorola Radios that are Not Narrowband Capable

Following is a list of Motorola radios that you may still have in service and are NOT narrowband capable:



Bases & Repeaters









Mocom 70























Spectra Conventional



Please note that some older versions of the HT1000 and VISAR portable radios are programmable for narrowband only on existing channels.  However, they may not be compatible if new narrowband frequencies are added.

Plan for the Longer - Term with MOTOTRBO™

To meet later mandates planned by the FCC, consider new equipment that is capable of 6.25 kHz channels. These very narrowband systems are digital – your license should specify digital operations prior to use of this equipment.

MOTOTRBO™ narrowband systems

  • MOTOTRBO TDMA will provide improved Capacity and Capability with Reduced Costs
  • MOTOTRBO provides 2 For 1 Channel Capacity for a 12.5kHz Channel
  • MOTOTRBO or NXDN technology investments require emission update on licenses

12.5kHz TDMA
7K60FXE (Voice)
7K60FXD (Data)

6.25 kHz FDMA
4K00F1E (Voice)
4K00F1D (Data)
  • Simply adding a new emission designator does not require a frequency change
  • Adding emission designator supports system transition
Learn more about MOTOTRBO

Suggested Actions

Is your Business Radio System "Narrowband" compliant?

Let Fisher Wireless complete an assessment of your existing licenses. We will simplify the process for you and help you secure results.

It's important to start planning now to migrate to narrowband systems by assessing your current radio equipment and applying for new or modified licenses – the FCC deadline of January 1, 2013 is not very far away.

Contact Us Today to Help You with Narrowbanding

For More Information

Federal Communications Commission:

Direct Links to FCC Documents:

NIJ’s Communications Technologies (CommTech):