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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > From the Director: June Means Only 30 months to Narrowband Deadline

From the Director: June Means Only 30 months to Narrowband Deadline


June 1, 2010


If you have no idea what that headline means, this message is for you.

By January 1, 2013, as soon as the clock strikes midnight, all radios operating in the Public Safety and Industrial/Business license pools must begin to operate on narrow-band frequencies. A little background:

To take advantage of technology advances and to promote better spectrum efficiency for radio communications, the FCC has mandated that almost all radio licenses operating in the Public safety and Industrial/Business Pools between 150-174MHz and 421-512MHz radio bands be programmed to operate on 12.5KHz channel spacing vice the current 25KHz spacing.

As of January 1, 2013, most licenses for 25 KHz frequencies will no longer be valid. This transition to narrowband frequencies requires users to modify existing licenses and to have equipment that can be programmed to operate on the modified frequency. In some cases current equipment can be reprogrammed and in other cases it will require the acquisition of new equipment. Operators that do not meet the narrowbanding deadline will be in violation of FCC regulations and subject to actions by the FCC.

For Private Citizens:

At first glance, you might think this has nothing to do with you. But it certainly would affect you if the first responders in your community could not communicate by radio.

So ask your town officials how they’re doing on that “narrowband thing.” And if a local vote comes up to allocate the funds for relicensing and reprogramming radios, consider this. Your town is doing the correct and responsible thing to ensure that emergency communications are uninterrupted. That’s worth supporting.

For Public Officials

The process to move to narrow-band began in 1991. The conversion deadline of January 1, 2013 was set by the FCC in 2004. Hopefully, your community is well on its way to relicensing and reprogramming radios, or replacing any equipment as needed.

Your steps should include:

  1. Assess/inventory current equipment and radio systems
  2. Plan/budget for new equipment
  3. Apply for new/modified license
  4. Establish timetable for new equipment
  5. Implement your transition plan
  6. Implement new equipment/systems

There will be costs associated with this changeover. Many communities across Maine have already allocated the necessary dollars to comply with the narrowband mandate. Others have been slower to respond.

It may be tempting to assume that “someone will come up with the money”, and that “someone” is MEMA, with Homeland Security dollars. While MEMA is considering budgeting to assist with some aspects of the changeover, preliminary estimates indicate that the dollars needed far exceed the total amount Maine receives in HS funding. And there is a fairness issue: why should communities which have failed to plan be rewarded, while those who did the right thing shoulder the burden by themselves?

The bottom line? Plan and budget now. Please don’t count on a free ride.

For the Business Community:

If you have been waiting for a formal notice from the FCC about your licenses, don’t wait any longer. We understand that the FCC does not intend to send individual notifications to licensees. So it is up to you to take action to ensure your radio systems are compliant with the new rules.

The same transition steps we recommend for public officials apply to you as well. To accomplish Step #1, Assessment, we recommend that you contact your radio vendor. Your vendor should be able to advise whether or not you are impacted and if your equipment is programmable. Additional information can be obtained from designated frequency coordinators.

Details regarding the narrowbanding requirement are available on the FCC web site. MEMA has also established a narrow-band information page, which will be updated regularly as the progress toward the deadline continues. We will include links to FCC notices, FCC presentations, conversion templates, and general information.

While this is offered as a general reference, MEMA does not have the technical expertise to answer detailed questions. Therefore we recommend contacting your vendor, frequency coordinator or the FCC with specific questions about your system.


Public and business officials must act. To move to narrowband operations, organizations must apply for new frequencies or modify their existing license through the normal licensing process. There is help out there, but the first step has to be taken by the organization.

The good news? Most equipment purchased within the last five years is narrowbandable and will simply need to be reprogrammed. Older equipment may need to be replaced. Most manufacturers have web sites where you can enter the make, model, year and serial number of your equipment to determine if it is narrowbandable. Radio system vendors can also assist with this effort.

Many organizations are likely aware of this requirement and have already taken steps to meet the requirement. For others, this may be new and have considerable resource implications. But the deadline of January 1, 2013 must be taken seriously. While the FCC deadline has been delayed in the past, we have not seen or heard anything to indicate it will be delayed again. In fact, there seems to be a strong determination to hold to the announced date.

It’s our hope that January 1, 2013 will come and go without any interruption to anyone’s communications capabilities. Towns, counties and businesses, with partner support, can make sure that is the case.

Questions or comments? Please, let me know.


Rob McAleer, Director, Maine Emergency Management Agency



Last update: 07/20/10