What is frequency coordination?
AFC is APCO's spectrum management arm, providing comprehensive radio frequency management for public safety agencies. With the most experienced staff and the largest network of volunteer experts, AFC is the only organization that provides full radio frequency management services, including frequency coordination and engineering, and license preparation and management for public safety agencies. AFC is a Federal Communications Commission certified public safety coordinator and, as a division of APCO, AFC's revenue is invested back into the public safety communications community.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has certified specific associations to perform the coordination process used to choose appropriate frequencies for land mobile radio systems before they, the FCC, will accept applications for licensees to operate two way radio systems. This is essential to ensure the numerous systems across the country have clear and interference free operation on their critical radio systems.
How does it work?
The FCC requires a radio license to operate a radio station, any radio station with a few exceptions for very low power "unlicensed" operations such as cordless phones, garage door openers, etc. But public safety agencies cannot just apply directly to the FCC. The FCC does not maintain the staffing to research every application to ensure technical adherence to the FCC Rules and Regulations. This is where the frequency coordinators come in.
An agency applying for a license to operate a land mobile radio (also known as two-way radio) must submit an FCC application to a frequency coordinator who will process the application and submit it electronically to the FCC. Within the bands that agencies use for two way radio operation, the FCC has set aside very specific channels for public safety.
In general there are two very distinct divisions of the radio spectrum for two way radio systems. Business and public safety. Similarly, these two groups each have a pool of frequency coordinators that can provide the service of coordination. In the case of public safety there are four associations certified by the FCC to perform coordination. APCO is the largest of the four in the public safety pool.
What do we do?
APCO receives applications directly from agencies or in some cases, from third party service providers whose business includes preparation of agencies applications on a contract basis. These service providers may be professional license preparation firms or local two way radio shops. In any case, APCO has a process that reviews the applications for completeness, enters the application into a database, and submits the application to a technical review. The technical review is typically performed by one of APCO's Local Advisors. APCO maintains over 50 volunteers who are qualified members of APCO.
APCO maintains an extensive database consisting of the FCC licensed system data and the applications in progress data. APCO has a highly developed computer based system that is available to the volunteer Local Advisors where the applications are run through a complex search to determine the compatibility of frequencies included on the application with those in the geographic vicinity of the applicant. In some cases, the applicant leaves the frequency choice up to APCO and we will research the most appropriate frequency available.
Many frequencies are coordinated on shared basis with other frequency coordinators or certain frequencies are affected by frequencies coordinated by other certified coordinators. In those cases, concurrence of the choice is obtained from the appropriate coordinator. In certain instances, concordance is required from other licensees in the vicinity depending on frequency and distance separation.
Once APCO approval and review is completed, APCO converts the application into an electronic form acceptable by the FCC and transmits the application directly to the FCC. The FCC no longer accepts applications through any other means.
With several means of accepting applications including through standard mail and several electronic transmission methods, APCO uses a high degree of automation to move and process applications, yet the most important part of APCO's process includes its dedicated full time professional staff working in conjunction with the volunteer Local Advisor network.
The FCC now uses a radio license application multi-page form referred to as "Form 601". The complex technical information, agency registration, tower registration, and general system complexity all contribute to a complex process. Each application is affected by many different FCC rules. If an application has been prepared to perfection and the preparer and submitting agency have done significant homework, applications can be processed in as little as a week. However, due to the complexity, the average application will generally require approximately a month to ensure it is complete, accurate, and the frequencies assigned will provide a minimum of interference.