FCC Licensing from Communications Electronics

Communications Electronics works closely with a licensed frequency coordinator so we can take care of ALL your FCC licensing requirements. We can assist you with new applications, renewals, relocations and modifications.

In January 2013, the FCC implemented new requirements that mandated all VHF and UHF licensees make use of narrowband channels. This required some businesses to purchase new equipment, while others had us simply modify their equipment. A license modification is required to show that this was done. If you aren’t sure you have completed these narrowbanding requirements, simply contact us and we’ll let you know. The FCC is enforcing this new requirement by not allowing you to renew your license unless your equipment is narrowband compliant. They could also fine operators of noncompliant systems.

FCC licenses are typically good for 10 years. Each license has an expiration date on it. If you have an expiration coming up within the next few months, let us know and we will take care of all the paperwork. Did you get a letter notifying you of an upcoming FCC expiration on one of your licenses? If so, contact us or send us a quick email. Several licensing companies send notifications like this several months before an application could even be processed by the FCC.

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Narrowbanding Compliance—What You Need to Know

Are your radio system and subscribers ready for Narrowbanding?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated all public safety and industrial/business licensees convert existing 25 kHz radio systems to minimum narrowband 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by January 1, 2013. The purpose of the narrowband mandate is to promote more efficient use of the VHF and UHF land mobile frequency bands.

Who is affected?

All land mobile Part 90, 25 kHz efficiency systems operating on VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) frequency bands.

Key Dates

The FCC has set the following deadlines for licensees and manufacturers, requiring migration to minimum 12.5 kHz efficiency systems.

Radio Users (Licensees)

January 1, 2011: Applications for new licenses or for license modifications to expand existing service areas must specify at least 12.5 kHz
efficiency. The FCC will no longer accept applications for systems operating at 25 kHz efficiency.
January 1, 2013: All licensees must convert to and operate in at least 12.5 kHz efficiency. Existing dual mode (25/12.5 kHz) equipment must
have the 25 kHz efficiency mode disabled via software. Equipment capable of operating only at 25 kHz efficiency must be replaced.

Note: The FCC has NOT set any date by which licensees must operate in 6.25 kHz efficiency in these bands.


In an effort to promote more efficient use of spectrum, the FCC mandated all VHF and UHF Public Safety and Industrial /Business licensees using 25 kHz land mobile radio (LMR) systems migrate to narrowband 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by January 1, 2013.

Currently the UHF and VHF frequency bands are congested and often there is not enough spectrum available for licensees to expand their existing systems or implement new systems. This mandate requires licensees to operate more efficiently, either on narrower channel bandwidths or increased voice paths on existing channels. This will allow creation of additional channels within the same spectrum, thereby supporting more users.

The FCC does not mandate channel width, it mandates spectrum efficiency. FCC rules require 12.5 kHz or equivalent efficiency. Any of the following meet the 12.5 kHz equivalent efficiency requirement:

  • One voice path in a 12.5 kHz channel
  • Two voice paths in a 25 kHz channel
  • Data rates of 4.8 kbps per 6.25 kHz channel, such as 9.6 kbps per 12.5 kHz and 19.2 kbps per 25 kHz channel
After January 1, 2011, users who apply for a new license or modify their existing license must specify 12.5 kHz efficiency. If you need to expand your service area for your existing 25 kHz efficiency system, you will need to submit an application before January 1, 2011. Manufactures can no longer certify equipment capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency after January 1, 2011. However, per the FCC Order, released June 30, 2010, manufacturers can now manufacture, import, and market equipment capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency until January 1, 2013. This will allow you to purchase additional or replacement radios until you migrate to 12.5 kHz efficiency by that date, as mandated by the FCC. By January 1, 2013 all licensees must convert to and operate in at least 12.5 kHz efficiency. By that date, you must ensure that the 25 kHz mode is disabled via software on your dual mode 25/12.5 kHz radios. And you must replace all radios only capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency.
No. The FCC will prohibit licensees from operating 25 kHz efficiency equipment on a secondary basis. Non-compliance will be considered a violation subject to FCC Enforcement Bureau action, which may include admonishment, monetary fines and loss of license.
All Motorola radio equipment certified by the FCC since February 14, 1997 is 12.5 kHz efficiency capable. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us to review.
In most cases, we can use Motorola Customer Programming Software (CPS) to reprogram your subscriber and base station radios to operate at 12.5 kHz. Typically, infrastructure site equipment (duplexers, Multicoupler, window filter) does not require any changes. Please contact us if you need technical assistance.

No. Licensees can operate in either analog or digital formats as long as you operate at 12.5 kHz efficiency. Motorola 12.5 kHz efficiency equipment is available in both analog and digital formats.

No. Narrowbanding does not require moving to another frequency band or different channels. Licensees stay on the same channel center(s), but reduce the bandwidth of the channel(s) currently used, from 25 kHz to 12.5 kHz and change the emission designator on the license. Alternatively, licensees stay on the same 25 kHz channel but implement a 12.5 kHz equivalent technology on that channel.
No. Your 12.5 kHz channel will remain on the same 25 kHz channel center. Your current 25 kHz channel will not be split into two 12.5 kHz channels. You will need to justify and apply for any additional 12.5 kHz channels to the FCC through a certified frequency coordinator.
Maybe. We can help you conduct tests during conversion to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage. Please contact us to help you determine if transmitter site changes or additions will be required to compensate for possible coverage change.
No. The FCC has not set any date by which licensees must operate in 6.25 kHz efficiency. The current mandate only requires users to migrate to 12.5 kHz efficiency by January 1. 2013. Based on the 12.5 kHz migration time line, we believe that any potential future FCC decision to require users to migrate to 6.25 kHz efficiency will take a considerable number of years.
For those licensees who want to voluntarily move to 6.25 kHz efficiency, Motorola is currently shipping two complete product families that already meet a 6.25 kHz equivalent efficiency mode. ASTRO® 25 product line for Mission Critical Subscribers and MOTOTRBO™ product line for Commerce and Enterprise clients. Both operate at two voice paths in a 12.5 kHz channel, using a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) protocol. This technology allows you to double the capacity of your existing 12.5 kHz or 25 kHz channel.