Dear Hospital Chief Executive Officer Letter: FCC Narrowbanding Mandate, April 1, 2011

April 1, 2011

Dear Hospital Chief Executive Officer:

On July 17, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission published its final rule (later amended to revise certain deadlines) mandating the implementation of certain "spectrum efficient technologies" in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz radio frequency bands. Principal among these is a mandate that the bandwidth of radio channels in these frequency ranges be converted from the now-standard 25 kHz ("wideband" channels) to a new standard of 12.5 kHz ("narrowband" channels). The final deadline for the complete implementation of this "narrowbanding" mandate is January 1, 2013.

While there is widespread awareness of this impending deadline within the pre-hospital EMS community, we are uncertain about the degree to which hospitals are aware of, or are working toward compliance. Since radio equipment configured for wideband operation is incapable of communicating with equipment configured for narrowband operation on the same frequencies, it is imperative that the conversion of EMS-to-hospital radio systems to comply with this mandate be coordinated between the two, within each regional EMS system. The conversion of a radio system from "wideband" to "narrowband" requires modification of the FCC license(s) under which the system is operated, and will therefore require additional planning, lead-time, and, most likely, consultation with technical experts (such as your radio service contractor). It is for these reasons, you are strongly advised, if you have not done so already, to begin in earnest the process of making this conversion.

It is also important to note that, since the base station radio equipment used by hospitals typically has a much longer service life than the mobile and portable equipment used in the field, it is likely that many hospital radios pre-date the anticipation of this conversion, and therefore lack the capability of being re-configured to comply with it. Older radios, will need to be replaced in time for compliance with this mandate, this cost may not be unsubstantial.

To assist you in the impending federal mandate and its effects, we would direct you to the following website: Scroll down the right hand side of the page, under the heading "Narrowbanding Brochure Available" and click on Download a PDF copy. Please note on Page 17, this brochure provides a FCC link to all frequency coordinators. The brochure was also previously provided to your county EMS Coordinators to promote addressing these FCC regulation changes at local public safety dispatch centers (911), prehospital care providers and/or ambulance services.

We would further encourage you to contact your Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO), to begin the process of planning a coordinated "cutover" to "narrowband" channel usage for EMS-to-hospital radio communications in your region. A listing of REMSCOs across the state can be found at:


Lee Burns
Acting Director
Bureau of Emergency Medical Services