Tuesday, August 02, 2011

First alarm newsletter August 2011

To: All Ulster County Emergency Services
From: Art Snyder
Date: July 21, 2011
Re: Radio system / Narrowbanding

Our efforts to implement a new radio system are being severely hampered by an inability to identify available frequencies. Blue Wing Services, our consultant, has been researching VHF, UHF and 700/800 bandwidths. Unfortunately, they are finding it very difficult to identify a sufficient number of frequencies in any one bandwidth.

One of the problems is our geographic location. The proximity of Ulster County to the New York metropolitan area means there are an abundance of users, all taking up large parts of the spectrum. And any frequency providing countywide coverage in Ulster would certainly have an impact on existing users. The other problem is that when the FCC auctioned off spectrum, a number of speculators purchased frequencies at rock bottom prices and are now in the business of cashing in on their investment. Despite this, we are not closing the door on purchasing the necessary channels. The bottom line is that our options for a radio system are going to be driven to a significant extent by what spectrum is available, not necessarily what spectrum is optimal.

I had hoped to be able to combine compliance with FCC mandated narrowbanding with an ultimate system solution – thus avoiding making changes now for narrowbanding and later for a new radio system. However, this will not be possible. To comply with the narrowbanding mandate we have submitted license modification requests to the FCC and are working with our vendors to modify our existing equipment. All agencies operating on County owned channels in the targeted spectrum (150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz) must determine which of their mobiles, portables and pagers are capable of accepting the 12.5 kHz spacing of narrowband, and make plans to reprogram or replace as required. We will advise of the timeline for converting the County system prior to the deadline.

For those agencies with private channels in the affected bandwidth that have not yet begun to prepare for the January 1, 2013 deadline to implement narrowbanding, the following websites provide a wealth of information:

If I can be of assistance in this process, please don’t hesitate to call.