FCC Reminds Part 22 Licensees of Technical Rules and Seeks Comment on Need for Technical Flexibility

The FCC has issued a Public Notice to remind licensees who operate frequencies licensed under the FCC’s Part 22 Paging and Radiotelephone Service rules – including electric utilities who use these frequencies for their private land mobile communications systems – of various technical and operational rules for these frequencies. The FCC is seeking comment on any revisions the agency could make to these rules to provide Part 22 licensees with greater technical or operational flexibility in their use of this spectrum.

Comments are due December 17, 2014, with reply comments due January 19, 2015.

In its Public Notice, the FCC first reminds licensees of certain restrictions on their use of Part 22 frequencies. Among other things, the FCC reminds Part 22 licensees that they must comply with the 20 kHz channel bandwidth limitation for the center frequency, the out of band emission limits, and ERP limits. The FCC also reminds Part 22 licensees that they must provide co-channel protection to all authorized site-based co-channel facilities within the same geographic area and that mobile stations may only communicate with and through base stations.

The FCC then states that it nevertheless recognizes that additional technical and operational flexibility may promote more intensive use of the spectrum and thereby benefit users nationwide, and is therefore requesting comment on possible updates to its Part 22 rules to provide flexibility in the types of uses and technologies that can operate on these channels. According to the FCC, such an update could result in licensees deploying innovative technologies, deploying narrowband equipment, or using offset frequencies if they hold adjacent channel blocks.

For example, the FCC notes that while some licensees may wish to use offset frequencies on their systems (i.e., “channel-splitting”), the use of frequency offsets may violate channel bandwidth and emission limitation rules. The FCC is therefore requesting comment on whether flexibility in channel bandwidths would be appropriate and under what conditions. The FCC also asks whether the Part 22 rules should be updated to permit technologies such as TETRA, which is currently permitted under Part 90 of the FCC’s rules in the 450-470 MHz band and certain 800 MHz channels.

Finally, the FCC seeks comment generally on updating and streamlining the Part 22 Paging and Radiotelephone rules. For electric utilities in particular, this provides an opportunity to seek a modification of the rules to permit licensees who use Part 22 frequencies for private, internal use to satisfy the Part 22 construction requirements on a basis other than the percentage of population covered in the licensed Economic Area. Commenters requesting updates and revisions should provide support for their positions, including any technical analysis necessary to demonstrate that their proposed rule changes would not result in increased interference in the band.

A copy of the FCC’s Public Notice is available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db1017/DA-14-1508A1.pdf.