Rebanding (also called Reconfiguration) refers to the changes within the 800 MHz band that are taking place nationwide. Detailed information about rebanding can also be found at 800ta.org.
Rebanding should not be confused with Narrowbanding.
When the 800 MHz band was originally created, two segments of the spectrum were set aside for Cellular Telephone (mobile and base). Public Safety was later assigned a block of frequencies, and "SMR" (community repeater), "ESMR" (Nextel), and public safety services were allowed on the remainder of frequencies. However, unlike in other bands where licensee types were allocated to contiguous blocks of frequencies, in the 800 MHz band Public Safety, SMR, and ESMR services were all mixed together. During the 1980's and 90's, Nextel created a nation-wide network by buying up thousands of individual licenses for frequencies between 851-866 MHz.
A Brief History of Mobile Comms and Trunking
Public Safety systems are not operated for profit, and typically use a "high site" architecture, where a few base stations with power output in the 100-200 watt range are located on tall buildings and hill tops. This results in lower signal strength over a wide coverage area. Nextel and other ESMR systems use a "low site" or cellular type architecture, with many base stations installed on 1-3 story buildings and 30-50 ft monopoles to create high signal density and greater user capacity over their coverage area. These ESMR sites transmit continuously with ERP of as much as 1000 watts. The presence of these sites, and the RF energy they generate in close proximity to public safety operations, causes radios used by public safety to lose contact with their more distant base stations.
APCO Project 39
In the late 1990's, the FCC was forced to acknowledge that there was a problem. The number of interference complaints to public safety were rising, and the popularity of the ESMR services that were primarily blamed for the interference was also rising, with no end in sight. Something had to be done. The FCC solicited input from the various users groups to determine the best course of action. After many hearings, replies, counter-replies, and conferences, the FCC issued a Report and Order directing the "rebanding" of the 800 MHz spectrum. The result of rebanding will relocate NPSPAC, the contiguous block of frequencies reserved for Public Safety, and create a separate contiguous block reserved for high power ESMR operations, primarily Nextel.
So, where does Nextel come into this?
Nextel, contrary to popular belief, is not a cellular telephone company. They operate an "Extended (or Enhanced) Specialized Mobile Radio" service (ESMR). It does look like a cell phone, and it operates like a cell phone...but it really isn't. It is a digital trunking business radio with telephone interconnect, and operates in the business/industrial part of the 800 MHz spectrum (851-866 MHz). As the largest licensee of ESMR channels, Nextel are also responsible for the largest number of interference complaints to public safety.
What does rebanding actually do?
(To keep it simple, only the output or base station side is described below. Since all 800 MHz channels are paired, the input or mobile side will be similarly reorganized as shown in the graphic.)
Before rebanding, Public Safety, Business/Industrial, SMR and ESMR's both operate in the 851-861 MHz range. ESMR has exclusive use of the 861-866 MHz range, and Public Safety has exclusive use of the 866-869 MHz range.
During rebanding the following will occur:
- All licensees with channels between 866-869 MHz (NPSPAC) must relocate to equivalent channels between 851-854.
- All licensees other than ESMRs with channels between 851-854 MHz must relocate to equivalent channels between 854-862.
- Nextel and other ESMR operators must relinquish all channels below 862 MHz. The FCC has required Nextel to vacate all its channels in the band from 854-854.5 nationwide as soon as possible to provide additional spectrum for Public Safety needs.
- Public Safety has exclusive access to all vacated Nextel channels for 3 years, after which they are open to all eligible users.
After rebanding, Public Safety and Critical Infrastructure will have exclusive use of 851-854 MHz. ESMR systems (primarily Nextel) will have exclusive use of 862-869 MHz range, and public safety, business/industrial users, and low-power SMR's will share the 854-862 MHz spectrum. 860-861 MHz is designated as an "Expansion Band", and 861-862 MHz is designated as a "Guard Band". No licensees other than ESMR are required to relocate to channels above 860 MHz.
This is shown graphically here:
Why won't my scanner work after rebanding?
Well, depending on what you listen to, it might work. If you listen to EDACS or LTR (or conventional), you will just need to reprogram the new frequencies and logical channel numbers. However, if you listen to Motorola analog systems (which still comprise the largest number of public safety systems), your scanner will probably not track some or all channels in the system after rebanding.
In 1987, 239 channels between 866-869 MHz were allocated exclusively to Public Safety (NPSPAC). These channels are spaced 12.5 KHz apart. Rebanding will relocate the NPSPAC channels to 851-854 MHz. This band was allocated to SMR operations, and the channels were spaced 25 KHz apart, so only 120 channels were assigned. These are the "general category" channels - 851.0125, .0375, .0625, .0875, .1125, etc.
The frequencies in between the general category channels (851.0250, .0500, .0750, .1000, .1250, etc.) are known as "splinter" channels, and were rarely assigned except near the US-Mexico border. Since there were no channel numbers for the splinter channels, Motorola decided to 'borrow' 120 channel numbers from higher in the band (862 MHz), where only commercial systems will operate. The "new" numbers start at 440, so 851.0250 MHz is now channel 440.
Scanners track trunking systems by monitoring the control channel. When the scanner detects a talkgroup ID that the user has programmed in, it picks up the channel assignment for that talkgroup from the control channel, then performs a calculation to determine the actual frequency to be tuned. The calculation uses the assigned channel number, a predetermined "base" frequency, and the step or distance between channels (12.5 or 25 KHz). At no time does the control channel actually pass any frequency information - only the FCC or Motorola channel number.
How will my scanner work after rebanding?
Today if a non-rebanded scanner is told to go to channel 448 in a rebanded Motorola system, it calculates the frequency as
(862.0125 + (8 x 25 kHz) and jumps to 862.2125 MHz. The problem is that channel numbers 440-559 have been "borrowed" to cover the new channels at 851-854 MHz. The correct frequency for channel 448 in a public safety system is 851.2250 MHz, but the scanner doesn't know this. Even if all of the new frequencies for the system are programmed in, the scanner still relies on the above calculation during trunking and will always tune to the wrong frequency.
If a public safety site or system uses ONLY the general category or 1-120 channels described above and/or channels between 854-862 MHz, a non-rebanded scanner should still track that system correctly, because it knows how to find those channels. However, most Public Safety systems are using a mix of existing (1-120) and "new" channels (440-559), and they will miss any communications which are assigned to the new channels. Of course, any 800 MHz scanner will still monitor the new channels in conventional mode, but talkgroups cannot be followed when scanning conventionally.
The data which older scanners (and the older radios in the system) use for the channel-to-frequency calculation are burned into the CPU and cannot be updated without replacing the circuit board, which manufacturers can't reasonably do. Some scanners that are less than 2-3 years old have user-upgradeable firmware, and the manufacturers are creating new firmware to support rebanding for certain models.
Which Scanners Stop Working?
This is a partial list of scanners that are expected to stop working on rebanded Motorola analog (3600 bps control channel) systems where one or more of the frequencies has a zero in the 4th decimal position:
- PRO-92 (A and B versions)
Changes to your scanner for rebanding
The list of rebanding supported scanners can be found here. In many cases, there are 2 sets of changes that need to be made to support rebanding; both firmware and software.
Firmware updates and rebanding support
It's always a good idea to have the most up to date firmware installed.
Radio Shack/GRE firmware updates can be obtained from the pages below. Note that a GRE update will not work with a RS scanner, or vice versa. It's assumed there is a manufacturer specific code installed in the firmware.
Uniden has issued rebanding updates for all supported scanners. See the following links for the non-DMA scanners
See Updating the Firmware in Uniden DMA Scanners for information on updating the Uniden DMA scanners. Note that many of the tips found here also apply to the firmware updates for the non-DMA scanners. The XT series of scanners are rebanding ready out of the box.
Software Support for Rebanding
Note that in most cases, if you have a premium subscription, software that supports downloading data from the database will set the correct system type and custom tables automatically, as long as the rebanding flag has been set. This flag results in a warning message about the system being rebanded in the form.
The following wiki articles contain specific information on how to apply changes for rebanding support;
- Rebanding the Radio Shack Pro-96 or Pro-2096 requires the use of software. See the articles listed below.
- Win96 go to the bottom of this article for instructions
Scanners with Pre-Loaded Databases
For those scanners that have a pre-loaded version of the RadioReference database (Home Patrol, Pro-18, Pro-107, PSR-700, PSR-800), once the database has been modified, you will need to reload it to your scanner to get the rebanded changes.
- There is a manual procedure that has recently been found for setting up rebanding in the PSR-800 - see the Operating Tips section of that article.
- For manually entering a rebanded system to Home Patrol via Sentinel, see the Adding a Rebanded System Manually via Sentinel article
Special Rebanding Bandplans
There are some areas that are using a completely different bandplan for rebanding than the ones documented above. If your area happens to be one of them, please add them to the list below. If this list gets too large, it will be split off to its own article.
When will rebanding happen?
Rebanding and channel swaps have been ongoing since 2005.
Depending on where you live, rebanding may have already occurred and is continuing to occur in various parts of the Country as of December 2011. The maps and regions can be found on the 800ta.org resources page
Public Safety is what is referred to as "NPSPAC". Note that the New Orleans area and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina have been moved into Wave 3.
Finding the New Frequencies
To find the precise frequency changes for a rebanding system, go to the 800ta.org callsign resource and enter the system's call sign. You will get a list of current and post-rebanding frequencies for the system. Note that systems which have already rebanded may show incorrect information. NPSPAC Systems (866-869 MHz) in Northern California are handled differently. Consult the RR database for current information.
Public Safety and 800MHz Reconfiguration:
Software for management of the rebanding process - MCM Technology
Example of rebanding process - Michigan 800 MHz Rebanding Project
Retuning Options for Trunking Systems - Rebanding Options for Trunked Systems
Answers to FAQ
The below answers are for the most common questions and misconceptions regarding rebanding.
1. This has nothing to do with 700 MHz.
2. This has nothing to do with cellular telephones.
3. This does not require switching to digital.
4. This is not the same as Narrowbanding.
No one except the system managers and technicians knows anything for sure. Until a particular system is rebanded, anything you read that says "This is absolutely how it will be" is speculation. However, you can check with the 800 Transition Administrator's site to get the best educated guess of how your local systems may or may not be affected. You can also look up the FCC license of the agencies you're interested in and see if new frequencies have been added. This is an indication that rebanding may be in progress.
First, get the callsign(s) for each of your local 800 Mhz trunk systems. Next, go to the Callsign Checker application. When you plug in each call sign, a chart will appear telling what rebanding steps, if any, are required. Some systems may require very few if any changes, and some may require more than others. Note that some systems have already rebanded and the 800ta database will list incorrect info for these systems.
Sprint/Nextel is paying for the costs of rebanding. However, they are only required to compensate licensees. Scanner users aren't typically licensees, so the cost of creating new firmware, replacing scanners, or reflashing scanners will be borne by the scanner manufacturers and hobbyists. In exchange for paying the costs of licensees to reband (and their own rebanding), Sprint/Nextel is getting RF spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1.8 GHz range.
Which Systems will be Rebanded?
All public safety systems that use frequencies from 866-869 MHz will reband. All systems not yet rebanded using frequencies between 851-854 MHz will relocate to new frequencies between 854-862 MHz.
Please refer to the following links;
What about EDACS and LTR systems?
Everything that has been discussed insofar as new channel allocations and firmware fixes have to do with Motorola systems only. EDACS and LTR use a completely different framework, and as such, scanners don't need firmware fixes to continue to track these systems. All that would be required is to reprogram all the frequencies subtracting 15 mhz from the current values, and make sure that the same LCN is maintained throughout. All the current trunktrackers that currently track EDACS or LTR systems will continue to do so after rebanding.
February 21, 2012: Frederick County, MD has completed rebanding its Motorola Type II SmartNet fixed network infrastructure.
December, 2011: Houston (Texas) Texas Wide Area Radio Network (TxWARN) Motorola Type II Smartzone has completed rebanding.
October, 2011: Sacramento (California) Sacramento Regional Radio Communications System (SRRCS) has completed rebanding.
February, 2010: Portland (Oregon) Bureau of Emergency Communications has completed rebanding.
December, 2009: Washington County (Oregon) Consolidated Communications Agency has completed rebanding and reconfiguration of its (now) 16-channel 800MHz simulcast system.
November, 2009: Clark County (Washington) Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) has completed rebanding.
September 22, 2009: City of Reading, PA Motorola Type II Smartzone has completed rebanding.
August 2009: Warren County/City of Vicksburg, MS Motorola Type II Smartzone, Jackson County, MS Motorola Type II Smartzone, The Jackson/Evers International Airport EDACS (upgraded to Pro-Voice), Rankin County, MS Motorola Type II Smartzone, Tunica County, MS Motorola Type II Smartzone, Forrest County, MS Motorola Type II Smartzone - have all rebanded, or are currently rebanding.
April 2009: The City of Salem, Oregon Motorola Type II trunked radio systems have rebanded.
There are two trunked systems in the Salem area, the A tower simulcast and the B tower that is located in Keizer.
4/1/2009: Guilford County/City of Greensboro NC has begun rebanding Moto type II Smartzone,As well as upgrading Guilford County Sheriff's Office to digital.Expected to take 2-3 years to complete.Possible that once rebanding is complete non-rebandable Trunktracker Scanners will still be able to monitor the system
February 2009: City of Nashua, NH (SID 7C25)completed rebanding their Moto Type II SmartZone system.
6/28/2007: City of Lakewood, Colorado completes rebanding of a two site EDACS system that was using all NPSPAC frequencies.
August, 2006: Motorola has received several patents for trunked radio operation, at least two of which appear to target rebanding.
August, 2006: Trenton NJ (WPGP231) and Bethlehem PA (WNWQ636) have both submitted applications to the FCC for rebanded frequencies. These appear to be the first such application submitted for Motorola systems that require new channel assignments. Rebanded systems for Public Safety will be shown as being in Radio Service "YE"
2/22/2006: Motorola completes Firmware ahead of schedule (firmware for Motorola controllers and subscriber units to implement rebanding coverage). Inside the 1Q2006 TA Report, Page 10
2/14/2006: UCAN gets TA Funding, officials anticipate a complete frequency relocation agreement will be signed by June 30, 2006. Article can be found here.