FCC Narrowbanding Compliance
What You Need To Know



 Are your radio system and subscribers ready for Narrowbanding?  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is mandating 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.





  • 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.


  • January 1, 2011 Can no longer certify equipment that is capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency.
  • January 1, 2013 Can no longer manufacture, import, or market equipment that is capable of operating at 25 kHz efficiency.
  • January 1, 2013 Radio equipment submitted for certification must include a 6.25 kHz efficiency mode. Radios can be dual mode 12.5/6.25 kHz efficiency.


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


Today, VHF and UHF frequency bands are extremely congested making it difficult for licensees to expand their existing systems or implement new systems. Requiring licensees to convert their existing radio systems to operate more efficiently, either on narrower channel bandwidths or increased voice paths on existing channels, will allow creation of additional channels within the same spectrum.

Motorola products meet Narrowbanding Compliance12.5 kHz Efficiency

As a trusted leader in two-way communications, Motorola has been preparing for 12.5 kHz technology for over decade and offers the broadest choice of two-way radio equipment with close to 60 models capable of operating in 12.5 kHz efficiency.

All Motorola radios certified by the FCC after February 14, 1997 meet the 12.5 kHz capability requirement. Newer Motorola radios enable modes of operation primarily through software, rather than firmware or hardware. The FCC will consider licensees to be in compliance if the 25 kHz efficiency mode of a dual mode 25/12.5 kHz radio is disabled via software and the radio user cannot subsequently reactivate the 25 kHz efficiency mode.

6.25 kHz Efficiency  For those licensees who want to voluntarily move to even greater efficiency than the 12.5 kHz efficiency required by the FCC, Motorola is currently shipping two complete product families that already meet any FUTURE FCC decision for licensees to operate in a 6.25 kHz equivalent efficiency mode.

  • ASTRO 25 product line for mission critical public safety markets
  • MOTOTRBO product line for commerce and enterprise markets

Both operate at two voice paths in a 12.5 kHz channel, using a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) protocol. This technology allows licensees to double the capacity of their existing 12.5 kHz channel. In addition, they meet the current FCC requirement for licensees to operate in a 12.5 kHz efficiency mode by January 1, 2013. 

Preparing to meet the mandate With deadlines approaching rapidly, licensees who have not started their narrowband migration should considering the following steps today:

  • Take an inventory of your radios to assess what equipment is capable of operating in 12.5 kHz and what will need to be replaced. The FCC has required all radios certified since 1997 to include a 12.5 kHz efficiency mode, most new equipment likely is dual mode 25/12.5 kHz that can be simple converted via software.
  • Develop budget requirements and explore funding options.
  • Establish a conversion and implementation schedule.
  • Coordinate your conversion with neighboring agencies to facilitate continued interoperability among your agencies
  • Conduct tests during conversion to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage.
  • Contact your preferred frequency coordinator for any needed license modifications

Frequently Asked Questions


Does Narrowbanding require me to implement digital equipment?

No. Licensees can operate in either analog or digital formats as long as you operate at 12.5 kHz efficiency.

Does Narrowbanding require me to change frequencies or obtain new channels?

No. Licensees migrating from 25 kHz channels to 12.5 kHz channels stay on the same channel centers. You only reduce the bandwidth of your current channel and change the emission designator on your license.

Will I receive two 12.5 kHz channels when I change from my currently licensed 25 kHz channel?

No. As noted above, you remain on the same 25 kHz channel center, not splitting the channel into two 12.5 kHz channels. If you need additional capacity, you will need to apply for additional 12.5 kHz channels to the FCC through your frequency coordinator.

Can I operate on a secondary basis if I don’t narrowband my equipment by January 1, 2013?

No. The FCC will consider any radio equipment that does not meet the 12.5 kHz efficiency requirement by January 1, 2013 to be operating in violation of the FCC rules. All violations are subject to FCC enforcement action, which may include FCC admonishment, monetary fines, and loss of license.

Where can I get additional help?

For more information on Narrowbanding, please contact us at (800) 372-3444 or visit

For FCC licensing assistance, please contact your preferred frequency coordinator at:

FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau 

What if I don't ?

In a recent Public Notice, the FCC raised their fines for violation from $8000 a day to $16,000 a day! stating; "Operation in violation of the commission's rules may subject licensees to appropriate enforcement action, including admonishments, license revocation and/or monetary forteitures of up to $16,000 for each such violation or each day on a continuing violation, and up to $112,5000 for any single act or failure to act."