Home/FCC Two-Way Radio Licensing, Uncategorized/Two-way radio FCC licensing explained, and why it’s an essential part of day to day radio operation

Two-way radio FCC licensing explained, and why it’s an essential part of day to day radio operation

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Federal Communications Commission or FCC Licensing can be a confusing and miss understood part of using a two-way radios. Whether you are using two radios or five hundred radios, it’s the purpose of your two-way radio use that determines if a FCC license is required or not. In most cases a FCC license will be required especially if the operation of the radios is for professional purpose,  except for some forms of personal use that will be coverage later in this article.

Let’s define the types of scenarios where an FCC license will be require, this list is only a basic guide when in doubt you should inquire about a FCC License form your radio dealer:

Emergency Services, Public Safety Operations
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  • Police
  • Fire
  • EMS
  • OEM
  • Ambulance
  • City Operations like DPW

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Schools Communications & Operations (Public & Private)
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  • Inside the schools and its grounds
  • Transportation & busing of students

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Private Building Management

Company Operations
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  • Plant Management
  • Facilities Management
  • Security
  • Warehouse Operations
  • Transportation
  • Hazardous Material Handling

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Construction & Contracting
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  • Site Management

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Hospitals
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  • In-house Security
  • Hospital Management
    – Facilities
    – Patient Care

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Private Day Care Facilities

Summer Camps and After care Facilities

Private Security Agencies

Transportation Companies
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  • Taxi Service
  • Private Delivery Services
  • Private Bus Companies

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So that’s a long list and if so you are still reading this article you probably see yourself in that list. Hopingly if you are using two radios you already have a FCC License, a great way to check is to you to the following website link:
http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp

In the license search window change the drop down from Call Sign to Name then type in the name of your organization. If you do not see any results that coincide with your organization’s name you might have be continue searching with different variations of your organizations name.

Has your organization has gone through a name change or merger you might try legacy names?
Sometimes you need to change the order of the organization names or just try XYZ vs. XYZ Company, or XYZ vs. The City of XVZ.

If all else fails please contact your dealer for help, or reach out to us we have a lot of experience in FCC Licensing challenges.

Let’s talk about the Six basic components of a FCC radio license you should be aware.

  1. Purpose
  2. Location
  3. License Type
  4. Emissions & Frequency Band
  5. License Filing
  6. Rules & Regulations

Purpose

What are you trying to achieve by using two-way radios.  As part of the licensing application you will be asked this question. As a best practice you should as descriptive as possible, in the end this only helps you get what you need from the FCC and protects you in the future if there is a challenge to your license or if another party is interfering with you.

Location

A radio license is tied to a defined geographical area of operation. The reason for this is to ensure that other radio users and licenses holders in that same geographical area do not interfere with each other. The FCC will coordinate frequencies based on geography, radio emissions, and power output to minimize interference among license holders. License holders can have multiple areas of operation on the license but that all need to be coordinated form a frequency perceptive ahead of time. Meaning if you have a license for one location, and later on you need to add a second location to your license this license would need to be amended and frequencies would have to be coordinated.
During the licensing application process you will be asked some of the following questions.

What is the area of operation your organization needs to make your radio use affective?
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  • Be mindful the FCC may limit this area, so a conservative approach is best.

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Will you be operating in multiple locations? Like across the state or down the block?
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  • All locations of operation should be listed on your license to protect you from interfere now and in the future

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License Type

Once you define the purpose of your license and its locations then you need to define the type of license you will need to achieve your communications goals. In most cases you should be working with your two-way dealer or and experience licensing agent.

There are five basic types of licenses and are thus explained:

Mobile Only
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  • This type of license is used when the communication is simplex operation. Another basic term for simplex is radio to radio or talk-around radio channels. There will be no radio transmission boosting aid in it operation. Whatever power that comes out of your radio’s antenna is the power that goes to another radio listening on your channel. That power of course will be limited to what your license allows.

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Repeater
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  • A repeater is a type of radio that takes a weak radio signal and rebroadcasts or repeats it stronger over a predefined area. A repeater license will need two defined frequencies, one frequency for the repeater’s transmit and one for the receive frequency. The height of the repeaters antenna will also need to be listed on the license and the repeater transmit power or ERP will also need to be listed on the license. The FCC will dictate the power of the repeater based on the frequency band, the height of antenna, and the area of operation you are requesting.

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Multisite
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  • The purpose of multisite license is to manage more than one location that uses two ways that will either operate independently or together. This type of license makes easier for the license holder to manage multiple sites under one banner verse having to manage multiple licenses which could expire or be lost.

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Itinerant
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  • Itinerant licenses use a predefined group of frequencies set aside by the FCC form the purpose of radio users that need their license to travel with them. An example would be a contractor who works on multiple job sites throughout the state or county and they need the location of their license to travel with them. Itinerant licenses can be nationwide, multiple state, statewide, or locally defined. The downside with itinerant frequencies is that they are shared, and there is a high potential for interfere do to the radio traffic on those frequencies by other licensed users.

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Commercial
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  • A commercial license is used when the license holder wants to sell airtime on their two way radio system, like the cellphone companies do. The license is used for commercial purposes..

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Types of emissions & Frequency Band

An FCC license once approve is granting you or your organization permission to operate on specific frequencies or frequency, within a particular radio band, and the on a specific type of radio signal emission.

Examples of radio bands could be:
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  • Low Band
  • VHF
  • UHF
  • 800 MHz
  • 900 MHZ
  • GRMS

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Examples of Radio Frequencies could be:
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  • 045.5000 MHz – Low Band example
  • 455.1250MHz – UHF example
  • 160.5250 MHz – VHF example

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A radio emission is based on two technical factors, the radio signal’s bandwidth and the method of radio signal modulation. The FCC has predefined and agreed upon designators for classifying radio emissions which look like a series of codes on the license. These designators appear after the radio frequency on the license.

The basic things you should know about signal emissions is this, will the radios you intend to use be analog or digital radios?

Is your radio system a conventional repeater system or trunked radio system?

Will the radios be operating in wide or narrowband? 
Only certain bands are still allowed permission to operate in wideband, contact your dealer for details. Most new or renewed licenses needed to be narrowband by January 1st 2013 by FCC Mandate.

If you are operating in a digital format which is the digital protocol you intend to use?

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  • P25 Digital
  • Kenwood Nexedge
  • Motorola Mototrubo
  • Digital Trunked

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The dealer you are working with to purchase your equipment should know what frequency, band, and signal emission it will be operating on. It’s always a good practice to get your dealer to spell out your system in basic terms so you understand what you are getting and if it will be legal under your current license, or if  will need to your license will need to be amended. If you are considering going digital and have not amended your current license you will need to do so.

License Filing

When starting a new license process or amending an existing one, it all starts will paperwork and an application to the FCC. The FCC has very specific application forms that will need to be filled out according to the type of license you are requesting.

As part of the filing process your dealer or a frequency coordinator will look for frequencies that will work for your needs.  During the frequency coordination stage frequency monitoring may be needed. 
A radio will be programmed to listen in on the frequencies that are being considered for the license. The frequencies with interference or heavy radio traffic will be eliminated form the list.

Then the application and the requested frequencies will go to the FCC for approval. This process can take months depending on the workload of the FCC, so patience is needed because the process is now in the hands of the government.
Once the FCC has given its blessing on the requested application you will receive a temporary authorization, and then some time later you will receive full authorization and a physical copy of the license in the mail. Keep this original copy of the license in a safe place. We suggest to your customers the license be framed and hung somewhere in their offices where the employees are aware of it. So if one day the FCC comes knocking it is handy.

You can always get a digital reference copy from the FCC’s website as well.

The last step in the application filling process is the Notice of Construction.  This notice of construction tells the FCC that your radio system and radios are live and on the air hence constructed in the eyes of the FCC. This notice is typically dated the first day you were legally allowed to go live with your system.

Rules & Regulations

FCC licenses are government property by having a license you or your organization is getting permission from government for the privilege of using public airwaves. There are rules and regulations tried to that privilege. Here are some basic guidelines to keep you out of trouble with the FCC.

  1. Keep you license up to date. Make sure to renew you license when need. Licenses typically last for 10 year terms, and then if nothing changes in your license requirements it’s a simple renewal process. If you let your license lapse and don’t renew you are not operating illegally.
  2. Operate you radios with in the confines and limits of your license.
  3. Watch the language used over the radio. Users and license holders can get fined by the FCC for profanity and bad language. The fines are no joke.  We have seen $8,000 and more in fined to abusive users. Plus the FCC can take the license away.
  4. Not keeping you radio equipment functioning with in specification and causing interference to other license holders.  If your radio equipment is not maintained properly it can cause interference, as a license holder it is your responsibility to resolve interference issue you cause.

Having license is important and valuable

Getting a proper license ensures that the frequencies your radios are operating on are relatively clean and clear of interference, and have limited radio traffic from other users. If the frequency coordination was done right and care was taken during the monitoring phase you should have great working channels for your system.

That is not to say that interference on your system will never happen, but if someone or something is causing interference on the radios you have recourse. It will be your responsibility to report interference to the FCC and give them the most information you can about the interference. They have a special team that they use to locate interference, and using a monetary fining process to make them stop the interference.

Another reason that getting a proper radio license is valuable is that it can become an access in which you can sell to other entity. In certain parts of the United States there are not enough frequencies to go around and hence scarcity becomes valuable.

Lastly for if you are going to use two-ways for any of the purposes defined in this article you are going to need a FCC license there is really no way around it. If a dealer is telling you something different they are misinformed.

If you need help or questions with licensing, we would be happy to help.

 

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