Emergency Repeaters May Get New Frequencies

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Communications Commission is requesting comments on whether it should allow licensing and operation of mobile data systems and vehicular repeater systems on certain frequencies in the Very High Frequency (VHF) band, the agency has announced.
     The action is in response to an amended petition filed by Pyramid Communications Inc., a company that specializes in manufacturing wireless data and voice equipment for a number of markets.
     The company wants the commission to allow vehicular repeater system (VRS) operations on six remote and telemetry channels at the 173 MHz range.
     Pyramid says the current bandwidth is crowded and that additional bandwidth is needed to operate VRSs without disrupting communication on other frequencies.
     If approved, both mobile data and vehicular repeater systems would use the requested frequencies for operation, according to an unidentified spokesperson for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.
     Det. Marlon McCowan, of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office in Boise, Idaho, told Courthouse News that day-to-day operations would be severely affected if the department’s mobile data system were interrupted.
     “The system is linked to our onboard laptops. They have Internet access and allow us secure communication with our server. We can see [Department of Motor Vehicle] data such as license plate numbers, addresses and other information, [and it] also keeps us linked with dispatch. We can see all other units in the area, if they are busy on a call or are free to assist other units. If [the system] went down, it would be catastrophic,” McCowan said.
     Equally important is a firefighter’s ability to keep in constant radio contact while inside burning structures. A VRS provides that functionality.
     “For example, a mobile repeater enables firefighters to communicate on hand-held radios with their command center when they enter a building encounter an in-building fire and need to call for backup assistance on the spot. Without a repeater to relay the communications, the firefighter inside the building might be cut off from communicating with the command center,” according to the FCC in its action.
     Aside from crowded frequencies, the FCC said new building materials increase the potential for disruptions in communications.
     Pyramid also asked the FCC for nine frequencies in the 170-172 MHz band. The frequencies are allocated for federal use, but are also available for assignment to non-federal licensees engaged in forest firefighting and forest conservation activities, according to the action. The commission denied the part of Pyramid’s petition asking for those frequencies.
     Comments are due by Dec. 31.

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