Time running out to convert radio systems to narrow bandTwo-way radio users have a little more than two months to upgrade or update their radio systems, lest they face hefty fines for using the older wideband system.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
Two-way radio users have a little more than two months to upgrade or update their radio systems, lest they face hefty fines for using the older wideband system.
A few years ago, the Federal Communications Commission set a Jan. 1 deadline for all two-way radios to operate at half the bandwidth, said Mike Lynk, director of the North Dakota State Radio division of the Department of Emergency Services. This was done to provide more bandwidth for public safety.
“It is a federal mandate and anybody within that spectrum needs to comply,” he said.
Affected individuals are those running on the 150 to 175 megahertz on VHF and 421 to 512 MHz on the UHF signals, Lynk said.
Narrow banding cuts the traditional wideband in half, from 25 kilohertz to 12.5 kHz, he said. It may reduce range by up to a third, but otherwise there is no difference
“We have found, in our independent testing, that you lose about 10 percent (range),” he said.
In addition to upgrading equipment, two-way radio users have to update their licenses. Preston Persson, sales manager at Kohler Communications in Williston, has been providing both services to customers for the past few months, and can only see it picking up as the deadline draws near.
“So as they’re coming in the door, trying to get this caught up before the first of the year — yes, we’ve been busy,” he said.
The Dickinson Police Department was thinking of the narrow banding change when it purchased new radios a few years ago, DPD Capt. Dave Wilkie said. The change for them was a simple reprogramming.
“They took our radios to their truck and I think they just run a new program through it,” he said. “And all of a sudden, we’re narrow banded.”
Farmer/rancher Curt Steffan has been using two-way radios for more than 20 years, and knows about the switch, but hasn’t made it yet.
“We need to get a hold of Kohler Communications and talk to them about it,” he said. “It’s on the back of my mind and it’s something I need to get done.”
There are many radios that will simply need a programing switch, which can be performed by the dealer, Persson said. Others will have to be replaced.
“Motorola, for some reason, had insight here 12 years ago and they went with a M1225 radio,” he said. “Anybody that has their radios from 10 to 12 years ago that are within that category are narrow-band capable. They don’t have to go out and buy brand new radios.”
The change was announced in December of 2004, according to the FCC.
If the narrow banding is not performed by Jan. 1, penalties include license revocation and fines up to $16,000 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation up to $112,500.
“It’s has to be done by the first of the year,” Persson said. “All licenses have to be narrow banded or the FCC will cancel those licenses. They will be canceled. So then you’re running illegally, and the FCC, according to government powers, can come out and start setting fines.”