Parker County commissioners approved an agreement with the North Central Texas Council of Governments Monday that will allow the agency to defray the costs of narrowbanding more than 1,000 county public safety radios, per Federal Communications Commission specifications.
“The Federal Communications Commission is requiring that all Very High Frequency (VHF) communication go to a narrowband format, creating more space within the radio spectrum for more technology,” Parker County Fire Marshal Shawn Scott said. “We’re filling up our air space quickly, and this is the FCC’s way to open up airwaves to allow more traffic.”
The county’s up-to-date Project 25 system — acquired when it was first launched, Scott said — is compliant with narrow band width, “but our interoperability frequencies — those used by two or more entities to exchange information — are being forced into narrow band.”
“We have to go back and re-tune the radios to meet this requirement,” he said. “We’re looking to touch 1,100 public safety radios in the county.”
Scott said the re-tuning process will involve hooking each radio up to a computer and having a technician make the required changes.
By having technicians stationed in different county locations, he said, Parker County plans to meet the new FCC standards in a week’s time, an event planned for the last week in October.
The cost to the county will be about $40,000, Scott said, with an undetermined amount of assistance from NCTCOG.
The FCC deadline is Dec. 31, Scott said, and appears to be firm. The federal agency began talking about making the change in the mid-1990s, but didn’t emphasize it, he said. The deadline has been moved several times.
Scott said the air space has become crowded due to the increasing use of cell phones, pagers, and other devices. He said remote oil sites also use the VHF spectrum to send information on well production back to company offices.