Saturday, September 8, 2012

Commercail Radio Band Re-Farming all the things we warned about are coming true.

15 years ago the FCC proposed Re-Farming or narrowing of the VHF/UHF radio bands used in this country by all types of businesses and emergency services.  In essence they where putting 2 channels in the band width spacing formally used by one channel. At the time I was a member of REACT an emergency radio monitoring team who used 2 way UHF radios on the GMRS radio service .

One of our biggest concerns was 1st the cost of buying all new radios which operate on narrow band but 2nd   how well these radios would work at half the width  they currently had.
Seeing all the problems they where having with other advanced radio systems .

While 2 way radio systems work well in many areas of the country when you start getting into hilly and mountainous areas  you start hitting all kinds of problems where a signal will not get thru.
At one time they pushed putting in 800-900 MHz trunked systems everywhere and yes the technology does work but as the State of Pa. and City of Pittsburgh, Municipality of Penn Hills  and other a Government agency's found out only if you design in enough radio repeater towers. Like the commercial  radio services do who lease radios and towers to business
In some cases you needed 10 to 1 or higher ratio  to use these systems properly in hilly areas.
Penn hills switched its Police to 800 MHz as the city of Pittsburgh tried doing it for there Fire Dept and both shut the systems down after a year or so because they just did not work properly and where putting lives at risk because not enough repeaters where put in. . Its same problem state of Pa. is having with its state wide Ma-com system still after 10 years not 100% fully functioning and state police went out and bought new narrow band radios so they could stay in touch where state system does not work.
So knowing all these things where happening you can understand our skepticism that going to narrow band radios was not a good idea.
So off we went trying to tell other radio users the problems to come and we got a Luke warm reaction .
Whats big deal by then things will be worked out by then we will need new radios any ways after wearing out our current radios.
Well come 2010 and all of a sudden all the Volunteer fire depts and small business and others who use 2 way radios are in a panic where are we going to get the money to buy these new radios.Etc.
and now that narrow band radios are in use there finding areas regular radios worked the narrow band do not  before with wider band signals thou not perfect signals got thru with a little scratch now nothing.
Fireman are complaining there pagers are not working as well either again the receivers are using a much narrower band and not picking up in buildings.

The problem can best be described  this way if you remember old  black and white  and older color TV sets on over the air antennas  they had a tuner knob  which you could play with and help bring a picture in. Well TV's went to auto tuners and now TV stations you could get before with maybe little snow you now no longer see. same theory goes with radios.
As with Cellular phones since the switch over to digital from analog people are complaining about the same thing the signals there or its not. There is no more in between . So yes once again as we go forward with technology thou we have more services we are actually going backwards as far as quality. So all the problems we talked about 15 years ago and manufacturers told us was not going to be a problem they will have the technology in place to handle it have been lies and wet dreams  again as usual.

Of course most of the narrow band problems would now be avoided by fire depts across the country had they taken seriously the Cyren call proposal for a public private  partnership where they would have had the best of both worlds  with radio gear .But as usual the Fire Service proves every day they are there own worst enemy.

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