2013, Narrowbanding and Ham Radio

Reviewing Chinese radios is one thing, answering tons of questions another. One question stood out: “Does this radio comply with the new narrowbanding requirements as laid out by the FCC?” My first reaction was “How the hell do I know? I’m just a foreigner.” Stupid foreigner or not, now I had to know. It proved to be easier said than done.

At first I tried to tap into the knowledge of fellow ham operators living in the USA. That didn’t work. Nobody seemed to be 100% knowledgeable on the subject, just like me. Opinions and technical requirements varied wildly. Only one technical requirement, the ability of the radio to make 2.5KHz steps, was always mentioned.

FcclogoEven when you master the English language, reading official documents isn’t always easy. I dug into the world of the FCC, reading as much as I could find, trying to make sense of it all. At a certain point I thought I got the general idea, but felt reluctant to post something. My conclusions would imply that nothing really changed for Ham Radio operators, nor for the radios they wish to use. It seemed a bit too risky to post.

Instead I wrote to the FCC, summarized what I thought was true, and asked if someone at the FCC could confirm it. The arrival of my e-mail (sent December 18, 2012) was confirmed promptly, and I waited. I’m still waiting.

Much better info came from the ARRL. Especially some ready-to-download PDF files cleared up things. If you read this document, go down to the end of page 6, you know everything there is to know:

“It is important to note that the FCC mandate to move to 12.5 kHz channels does not apply to Amateur Radio. However, the mandate has a substantial impact on the manufacturers that supply our transceivers.

There is a certain market incentive for Amateur Radio to adopt 12.5 kHz channels as this would ensure our continued compatibility with commercial equipment manufacturers. A willingness to keep in step with prevailing spectrum usage, whether it is for analog or digital communication, would also cast Amateur Radio in a more favorable light.”

There you go. When you buy a Chinese radio, narrowband is the least of your worries, unless you intend to use it for other purposes. This is clearly stated on the FCC website:

“Narrowbanding is an effort to ensure more efficient use of the VHF and UHF spectrum by requiring all VHF and UHF Public Safety and Industrial/Business land mobile radio (LMR) systems to migrate to at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by January 1, 2013.”

That’s all there’s to it. No 2.5KHz steps needed, not even a wide/narrow option. I still believe such options are very useful, but they’re not mandatory.

4 comments on “2013, Narrowbanding and Ham Radio

  1. That matches my understanding. It seems like people forget about 50+ (100?) years of history when they start talking about rule changes. I don’t think all the war surplus rigs that my father-in-law has will magically become compliant with every mandate. Nor will all the stuff he designed and built. Unless you are being a real jerk and causing interference, I don’t see the FCC breaking down your (US) door to confiscate a Chinese HT.

    • Exactly. The funny thing is that every radio you and I wrote about lately, match or exceed these requirements. They wouldn’t be approved for other use than Ham Radio though, but for totally different reasons.

  2. I don’t care if these rigs are compliant OR EVEN IF THEY OPERATE on the many other frequencies OUTSIDE the ham bands! I am a ham and THAT is where I intend to USE my rig! These people who want a rig that is a “cover all – do all” WILL 50% of the time operate on those frequencies SANS-LICENSE! they do NOT care about obtaining the proper TRAINING OR LICENSE! They simply want to use the rigs for the purpose THEY want and could not care less about who they interfere with or put in danger!

    THESE UNLICENSED — NO RIGHT TO BE ON A BAND THE RADIO COVERS people are no more than the “CB BUDDIES” of the 19060’s transported to 2013.
    They put NOTHIN’ “IN” and they should get nothin’ “OUT”! Operation should be treated as the violation it is – and if caught (slim chance – which is WHY they do it) they should be PROSECUTED! The FCC will prosecute HAMS for ridiculous violations and these people should suffer the SAME FATE!


    • There’s no data to support this assessment, and the EVERY ONE BUT ME IS A NO-GOOD LOAFER WHO HAS NO RESPECT attitude from older hams is getting VERY annoying. Why would anyone want to share a hobby with people like that?
      I want a wideband radio because I want to listen to other things, or I want backup FRS/MURS/GMRS capability in the occasion of an emergency or if I need to communicate with an unlicensed party.

Comments are closed.