Saturday, October 27, 2012

Narrow Band Questions - Still going around in circles?

As we get closer to the end of the year, two of the more frequent questions (and the answers) are worth sharing.  The first is Do I have to modify my license for narrow band, or do I just narrow band upgrade my equipment?

The answer is that you DO have to upgrade your license.  You can do it yourself and waste a lot of time, or pay an expert to do it for you.  We recommend having it done by Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA).  If they do the work, it costs you $260 for non-governmental licensees or $125 for governmental users. If you prefer to do the work yourself, click here for instructions.

You will need to complete a simple one page form, available by clicking here. As you will note, non-governmental users can choose to continue operating in the analog mode, or upgrade to either DMR digital (the format used for Hytera and MotoTRBO) or NXDN digital (the format used for ICOM and Kenwood) and be licensed for BOTH analog and digital.  P25 digital is also available but rarely chosen for commercial use.

As a commercial user, we recommend requesting both analog and digital operating capability, even if you don't have immediate plans to upgrade to digital. Specifically, if you are upgrading a VHF system, we recommend that you check the 4K00F1E for ICOM and Kenwood radios.  If you are upgrading a UHF system, we recommend that you select the 7K60FXE for Hytera and MotoTRBO radios.

You will note that public safety users pay less, first because they are exempt for payment of FCC fees.  In reality, a public safety user will pay MORE for any digital upgrade, the reason being the additional cost of third party coordinators. You can call EWA for a specific quote. 

The second question is Will upgrading from 50 to 100 watts on my base or repeater station make up for the loss I will experience by narrow banding? The answer is YES for talk out range from the station and NO for mobiles talking back.  Since a new 100 watt repeater will cost between $4,000 and $7,000, we think the better alternative would be to upgrade to a 50 watt analog/digital repeater at a typical cost of around $1,500 and use the savings to begin your migration to digital radios.

A good quality digital radio can operate in both analog and digital modes.  The cost is around $500 each.  This means you could replace your base or repeater station and have enough money left over to purchase your first five to ten digital radios.

The question often comes up as to whether adding a 100 watt linear power supply to an existing base or repeater radio is a good idea.  Generally speaking, a good quality amplifier and associate power supply will cost $1,500 to $2,000.As mentioned earlier, this only helps in one direction whereas a 50 watt digital base radio talking to a 50 watt digital mobile radio is essentially comparable to a 100 watt analog station talking to a 100 watt analog mobile.  Clearly, we favor the upgrade to digital, both from the viewpoint of performance, features, and cost.

Want to prove it out for yourself?  Give us a call to arrange a live trial.  Details available on request.  Just give us a call at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to