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FCC Mandate Creates Need for New Radio Equipment

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – A national mandate by the Federal Communications Commission will call for a change in the way departments, such as the Hastings Fire Department, communicate via radio.

“What has to happen by January of next year is the radios have to be reprogrammed because they’re going with a narrower band,” said Hastings village manager Fran Frobel.

The FCC narrowbanding mandate calls for all current licensees to implement equipment with bandwidths of 12.5 kilohertz or less whereas many radios currently operate on 25 kHz. Any equipment that is not able to operate at this channel needs to be replaced and fines can be handed out if the requirements are not met.

“If you try and transmit on wider bands there can be fines because you’ll be crowding over on other frequencies,” Frobel said.

This narrowbanding mandate will reduce the size of channels on the frequency so additional channels can be added into each spectrum. Essentially, this will create more channels for radios to operate on by utilizing more efficient technology.

The Hastings Fire Department in particular is an area of concern in regards to this mandate, Frobel said.

“It’s really a problem for the fire department because I guess some of their radios are so aged they can’t be reprogrammed, they have to be replaced,” he said.

Due to the necessity to replace about 53 radios, the Hastings Fire Department will need approximately $75,000 in new equipment.

“They have been identified as obsolete for narrowband compliance,” said Hastings fire chief James Sarfaty of the current equipment.

The fire department will add new radios on a continuing basis throughout the year in order to comply with the mandate by the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline.

The Hastings Police Department is in a better position because it has newer radios that can be reprogrammed according to Frobel. This issue will affect fire, police and public works departments across the country to varying degrees, depending on the state of current equipment.

“This is a nationwide mandate, it’s not just New York State,” Sarfaty said.

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