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DCNR Going Narrowband with New Frequencies in PA

July 9, 2012

I am currently working on adding updates to the Erie County, PA frequency page. In this post I’ll describe what’s changing.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or DCNR (who operate state forestland and state parks) has been in the process of migrating from their old VHF wideband channels to new VHF narrowbanded channels and also to the PA Starnet Opensky trunked system.

Narrowbanding is a rule set forth by the FCC. By January 1 of 2013, all public safety agencies, among other radio users, will be required to switch to narrowband, versus the currently used wideband equipment.

Right now, many public safety agencies operate “wideband,” meaning that frequency steps are usually 25 KHZ from one frequency to the next. So, say your local police operate on 460.050 MHZ. The next available frequency would not be until 460.075 MHZ, then 460.100 MHZ.

With narrowbanding, if your police again operate on 460.050 MHZ, there are now 12.5 KHZ steps between frequencies, half of the steps used in wideband. So, the next frequency available would be 460.0625 MHZ; then 460.075 MHZ; next 460.0875 MHZ; and finally 360.100 MHZ. As you can see, narrowbanding doubles the amount of frequencies available in any given slice of the spectrum from old wideband.

The FCC has made narrowbanding a law because the public safety bands are getting overcrowded. This will help free up more space where agencies can operate.

In compliance with narrowbanding laws, the PA DCNR, including our local forest district and park operations, have set up new narrowbanded repeaters for operations. In addition, the DCNR is also in the middle of migrating operations to the statewide Opensky trunked system.

159.2325 MHZ is a narrowbanded DCNR repeater located in Albion, PA. This repeater is tied into a talkgroup on the Starnet system. This is where forest ops will occur for the county. There may be (and likely are) other talkgroups on the Opensky system on which rangers and other personnel will operate in Erie County, but they are not tied into repeaters, and no scanner can receive any communication on the Starnet system at this time.

Presque Isle State Park operations also now have three repeaters on which operations will occur. 151.445 MHZ will be a repeater where primary ranger communications will occur. 151.4 MHZ will be a repeater for lifeguard communications. and 151.16 will be a repeater where maintenance operations for the park will be heard.

There is also a new statewide simplex mobile-to-mobile narrowbanded channel on 154.4525 MHZ.

These new channels could be in use now at any time. The old wideband channels will not be able to be called completely obsolete until the end of this year, so don’t erase those for now. However, be sure to plug in these new frequencies and listen for activity. If you hear anything on any of these repeaters, please let me know, both myself and RadioReference would like to know.

I am in the process of updating the frequency page for Erie County with this new data. Stay tuned for new posts and updates to the frequency page for more information as the narrowbanding deadline approaches.

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  1. DCNR Notes 07/10/12 « Scanning Erie, PA

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