Regional Planning Committee Process Current Topics and Ongoing Regional Planning Issues
The 700 and 800 MHz Regional Planning Committees (RPC’s) – groups of volunteers tasked by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with management of specific 800 MHz public safety spectrum and portions of the 700 MHz public safety narrowband spectrum – have been busy. A number of internal and external initiatives and processes continue to require that RPC’s take action to ensure that their user support remains consistent with the FCC’s rules and offers public safety spectrum opportunities to those that need it. The National Regional Planning Council (NRPC) is an advocacy organization that provides support and training to the 700 and 800 MHz regional planning community.
A summary of the topics currently before 700 and 800 MHz RPC’s are as follows:
800 MHz Re-Banding: The process designed to remove the potential for interference to public safety users in portions of the 800 MHz band by moving public safety licensees from the 866-869 MHz portion of the band to the 851-854 MHz portion of the band is largely complete in non-U.S. border areas. Work is ongoing to complete 800 MHz re-banding in U.S. border areas with Mexico and Canada.
700 MHz Required Plan Modifications: In October 2014, the FCC released a Report and Order (14-172) 1 that included a number of changes to existing FCC rules. Those impacted RPC’s greatly include reallocation of 700 MHz Secondary Trunked Channels to be used as Air-to-Ground channels administered by a state interoperability body of their designee, and reallocation of rReserve Channels to General Use channels. The FCC required that the 700 MHz RPC’s modify their existing plans to show planned usage for former Reserve Channels and prioritized the use of the channels (24 12.5 KHz channel pair in total) to existing T-Band licensees, as applicable. RPC’s were to work with T-Band licensees in the assignment of these Reserve Channels due to the fact that Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 requires the FCC to recover and auction T-Band spectrum for commercial use by 2021.
In areas where T-Band licensees do not exist, the 700 MHz RPC is required to administer the former Reserve Channels into General Use for their region. To address the need for nationwide deployable 700 MHz capabilities requested in previous filings, the FCC asked the NPSRC and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) to identify up to eight 700 MHz channels from these 24 12.5 KHz channel pairs to be designated for nationwide deployable system use. NRPC and NPSTC personnel met over a number of weeks and identified six former Reserve Channels that were best suited for nationwide 700 MHz deployable use, taking into consideration 700 MHz restrictions along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. Those channels and their recommended use, along with best practices for implementation, were summarized in a document with alternate and primary control channels assigned, recommended talk groups and an NRPC process to facilitate the assignment of specific WACN ID and System ID for 700 MHz deployable systems.
Lastly, a handful of 700 MHz agencies had built previously licensed deployable systems utilizing 700 MHz interoperability channels under waiver from the FCC. The Commission stated in the Report and Order that these agencies would be required to move to the newly identified former Reserve Channels identified in the NRPC/NPSTC document. The timeline for these systems to move to the new deployable channels is in concert with the submission and subsequent approval of the 700 MHz plan modification of the particular region or regions the licensee operates in. Their initial approval to use interoperability channels under waiver required some approval from the state but the new deployable (former Reserve) channels are under the purview of that region’s 700 MHz regional planning committee.
More information on the joint NRPC/NPSTC recommendations and supporting documentation can be found here:
700 MHz Geographic State License Cancellations and the Impact on 700 MHz RPC’s: The FCC required all 700 MHz state licensees to file a certification by June 9, 2014, that they are providing, or are prepared to provide, “substantial service” 2 to one-third of their population or territory by Construction Notification via the Commission’s Universal Licensing Service (FCC 90.529). States licenses that do not meet the substantial service threshold would automatically have the licenses reduced to the areas where substantial service is met, including frequencies utilized in those areas. As background, a 700 MHz Geographic State License was awarded to a licensee in each state and territory in 2001, with each state using 96 12.5 KHz Channel Pair (1.2 MHz of spectrum in total). This geographic license was for the entire geography of each state and did not necessitate site licensing for use of the channels. Each state and territory was awarded the same channels so while states had to coordinate the use of these channels at their border, they were free to use the channels absent any site-based licensing process with their state.
- Most states filed their documentation with the FCC and met their substantial service buildout for one-third population or geography of their respective state or territory. A number of states did not meet the substantial service threshold and cancelled their geographic license. Those states are Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska, Maine, Wyoming, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Indiana and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
- Per 90.529, any recovered State License spectrum will revert to General Use spectrum in the region or region(s) that make up that state. Management of General Use spectrum is the responsibility of 700 MHz regional planning committees in each region.
- At some point in the future, the FCC will provide each affected 700 MHz RPC instructions as to what actions will be required by the RPC’s to incorporate recovered 700 MHz Geographic State License spectrum into their General Use Channel allotments and any requirements associated with the addition of these channels and 700 MHz RPC plan modifications.
Changes to CAPRAD Database to Include Improved Licensing Capabilities: Regional planning communities use a database called CAPRAD to pre-coordinate 700 and 800 MHz spectrum at the regional level. CAPRAD stands for Computer Assisted Pre-coordination Resource and Database system. CAPRAD’s platform allows regional planners to oversee the distribution of channels to users in their area, promoting spectrum efficiency and multi-regional and wide area solutions, and ensuring interoperability between users. CAPRAD also allows applicants to file their FCC 601 applications online and submit a license application to regional planning committees.
The CAPRAD licensing module currently doesn’t allow an applicant to file a license modification. Today it can only support new FCC 601 form applications. APCO, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in their support of the regional planning process and the NRPC, worked with the current CAPRAD developer to enhance CAPRAD licensing capabilities by interfacing an existing licensing solution into CAPRAD in a cost effective manner. This solution will allow improved, existing web-based licensing services to be connected to the CAPRAD database for better licensing capabilities while retaining the planning portion of CAPRAD currently used by RPC’s. The solution is cost effective and leverages existing solutions in the marketplace to achieve desired licensure for RPC’s. APCO, working with the NRPC, will work with regional planners to provide training for the new licensing solution this summer.
Online Training for Regional Planning Committees: Due to the volunteer nature of regional planning committees, it is critical to have a program that can regularly address much needed RPC training for volunteers with varying degrees of experience. As new people begin to participate in the 700 or 800 MHz RPC in their region, training needs to be available for users outlining RPC responsibilities, the RPC process and current issues impacting RPC’s and the RPC process. APCO, in its supporting role of the 700 and 800 MHz RPC’s, will work with NRPC to develop an online training program that exposes new RPC participants to RPC recommended best practices and policies as they work to support public safety applicants in their area.
2. FCC 90.529 “Substantial Service” refers to the construction and operation of 700 MHZ facilities by public safety entities providing service which is sound, favorable and substantially above a level of mediocre service which just might minimally warrant renewal.”