The FCC released a report and order this afternoon that confirms that Emission Mask H must be used for digital transmissions in 800 megahertz NPSPAC channels, which the agency said will protect public safety systems from interference.
“The options include (1) requiring all equipment using digital emissions operating in the NPSPAC band to conform to Emission Mask H, as proposed in the NPRM; (2) relying on Emission Mask B, as proposed by PowerTrunk; (3) developing a new emission mask standard that takes into account data throughput and occupied bandwidth, as suggested by PowerTrunk; (4) relying on RPC [regional planning committees] discretion to manage adjacent channel interference, as proposed by PowerTrunk; or (5) using some other approach, such as relying on ACP [adjacent channel power] limits, as noted in the NPRM,” the FCC said in the order, which was adopted in PS docket 13-209. “For the reasons discussed below, we retain the Emission Mask H requirement as proposed in the NPRM. Accordingly, we modify Section 90.210 to more explicitly provide that (1) Emission Mask B applies to analog-modulated transmitters equipped with an audio low pass filter and (2) Emission Mask H applies to digitally modulated transmitters and to analog-modulated transmitters lacking an audio low pass filter.”
“We also take steps to enhance public safety system interoperability in the VHF, UHF and 800 MHz bands by specifying analog FM as the standard emission for use on all interoperability channels in these bands,” the FCC said in the order. “In so doing we lessen the possibility that first responders will encounter harmful interference in the NPSPAC band and provide certainty to manufacturers concerning the capabilities required of radios used for interoperable communications.”
In a 2013 notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC proposed to require that digital technologies, including but not limited to terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) technologies, comply with Emission Mask H when operating in 800 MHz band NPSPAC channels (TRDaily, Aug. 27, 2013). The NPRM was adopted in response to a petition for rulemaking filed by Harris Corp.
The FCC received mixed views on the NPRM, although some key public safety and industry players endorsed the Emission Mask H proposal (TRDaily, Nov. 13, 2013).
Commissioner Mike O’Rielly approved in part and concurred in part in the order released today. “For the most part, I am generally supportive of today’s action that will help guard against interference and promote interoperable communications in certain public safety bands,” he said in a statement. “I must concur, however, to two sections of this item.
“First, I largely oppose any type of technology mandate. Today’s item requires that all public safety radios operating on the 800 MHz, VHF and UHF mutual aid and interoperability bands must have analog FM capability. While I understand the pursuit of interoperability on interoperability channels, industry, despite not having a technology requirement, has adopted FM analog as the de facto standard in these bands. Therefore, this requirement seems unnecessary,” he said. “In fact, what happened here is the preferable approach – industry determined the best means to produce interoperability. Once a technology is set in regulatory stone, innovation and investment may be deterred or, if a better technology is or becomes available, it could take years to update our rules to reflect such advancements. And, frankly, it seems ridiculous in today’s digital world to be requiring that devices have less efficient, analog technology.
“Second, I continue to have deep concerns about the cost-benefit analyses contained in the Commission’s items,” Mr. O’Rielly added. “While I appreciate that staff took my concerns into consideration and made changes to this section, this item still lacks a quantitative assessment of the actual costs and benefits of our actions. Simply put, the Commission has the responsibility to conduct such a review and yet it does not sufficiently do so, which I cannot fully support. As long as the Commission continues to shirk its obligations, I reiterate my plea to stakeholders that they inform our analysis by providing data about the cost savings of their proposals or the possible costs of Commission rules. This will assist the Commission in weighing the cost and benefits and, ultimately, inform whether regulatory actions are justified.”
The order released today is a defeat for PowerTrunk, Inc., which deploys TETRA technologies. Some in public safety have expressed concern in the past that TETRA advocates have undermined the goal of having a single global standard for public safety use of LTE technology. Harris did not have immediate comment on the order, and PowerTrunk couldn’t be reached for comment. – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org