What Do We Mean by Spectrum in Public Safety

The radio spectrum is the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the United States, the FCC administers radio spectrum for non-Federal use (i.e., state, local government, commercial, private internal business, and personal use) and the NTIA administers spectrum for Federal use (e.g., use by the Army, the FAA, and the FBI).

Public safety spectrum serves the mission-critical communications needs of first responders charged with the protection of life and property. Public safety spectrum also serves the public safety-related telecommunications needs of state and local governments generally.

Spectrum is the region of the electromagnetic spectrum in which radio transmission and detection techniques may be used.

4.9 MHz

The 4.9 GHz band has been allocated to public safety for broadband technologies. Communications must be related to the protection of life, health or property. Examples of types of uses are:

  • Wireless LANS for incident scene management
  • Mobile data
  • Video security
  • VoIP
  • PDA connectivity
  • Hotspots
  • T1 line replacement

VHF Low Band

State police low band geographical assignment plan.

421-430 MHz

The FCC has designated certain frequencies in the lower UHF band to be licensed by Public Safety agencies in Detroit, MI, Cleveland, OH, and Buffalo, NY. These frequencies are listed in FCC Rule Section 90.273. The assignment of these frequencies and the restrictions placed on their use are covered by Sections 90.275 through 90.281.

These frequencies are limited in availability, geographic areas, and power and ERP. Refer to the FCC Part 90 Rules for specific assignment rules.

Low Power (450-470 MHz) Channels

These frequencies between 450-470 MHz are designated for low-power use subject to the provisions of Sec. 90.267 Assignment and Use of Frequencies in the 450-470 MHz Band for Low Power Use. The frequencies in the Public Safety Pool Low Power Group are available on a coordinated basis, pursuant to Sec. 90.20(c)

These systems are licensed in eleven metropolitan areas where T-Band spectrum is allocated for land mobile radio (LMR) use: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New York, NY/NE NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco/Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC/MD/VA.

470-512 MHz TV-Band

Frequencies from 470-512 MHz are designated as UHF-TV Sharing frequencies and are available in eleven metropolitan areas designated by the FCC: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New York, NY/NE NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco/Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC/MD/VA.

Public safety entities in these urbanized Areas are allowed to share UHF frequencies on TV channels 14 through 20. FCC Rules 90.301 through 90.317 governs the assignment of frequencies and protection of TV stations.

700 MHz

The FCC Rules for the public safety 700 MHz band are located in 47 CFR 90, SubPart R

700 MHz Resources

800 MHz

The FCC Rules for the public safety 800 MHz band are located in 47 CFR 90, SubPart S

800 MHz Expansion Band Considerations

Many licensees operate with spectrum in what is referred to as the Expansion Band (the range of frequencies 815-816/860-861 MHz). The FCC has indicated in the 800 Rebanding Report and Order that such licensees must “elect” to indicate whether or not they wish to retain their channels or select to move to frequencies lower in the band between 809-815/854-860 MHz. The FCC Rule establishes an assumption that PS users will move UNLESS they formally opt to remain on their existing channels.

The intent of the Expansion Band and the associated Guard band is to help separate public safety and other non-cellular type operations from the ESMR operations operating in the upper bands.