Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document

New York City Transit Authority Narrowbanding Waiver Grant

Download Options

Released: August 1, 2012

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1236

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY
)
WT Docket 99-87
)
Request for Waiver of Section 90.209(b) of the
)
Commission’s Rules
)

ORDER

Adopted: July 31, 2012

Released: August 1, 2012

By the Deputy Chief, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Chief, Policy Division,
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau:
1. Introduction. We have before us the request of the New York City Transit Authority
(NYCTA)1 for a waiver until June 30, 2016, of the Commission’s VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadline,
which requires private land mobile radio (PLMR) licensees in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz bands
to operate using channel bandwidth of no more than 12.5 kHz or equivalent efficiency by January 1,
2013.2 NYCTA seeks the extension for PLMR Stations KA34484, KB81204, KB81205, KEM727,
KG9550, KGL738, KGL739, KGL741, KJ3732, KLE770, KLE772, KLO237, KQT915, KSZ887,
KTA917, KTA918, KTA919, KTA920, KTA927, KTA928, WNGI988, WNGX515, WNGX516,
WNGZ991, WNHI787, WNSA945, WNZK581, and WPEM901. For the reasons set forth below, we
grant the request.
2. Background. NYCTA, the nation’s largest provider of mass transit services, operates a
subway and bus transportation network in New York City. It requests a waiver of the narrowbanding
deadline only with respect to communications equipment deployed on its subway system.3 NYCTA’s
rapid transit network operates at all hours, and typically makes more than 8,000 scheduled train trips that


1 See Request for Waiver of Commission Rules on Behalf of New York City Transit Authority (filed Jan. 27, 2012)
(Request). On May 21, 2012, comment was sought on the Request. See Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Seek Comment on New York City Transit Authority Request for
Waiver of the January 1, 2013 VHF-UHF Narrowbanding Deadline, Public Notice, WT Docket No. 99-87, 27 FCC
Rcd 5314 (WTB/PSHSB 2012). (The Request had previously been placed on public notice, see Public Safety and
Homeland Security Bureau Seeks Comment on Requests for Waiver of the January 1, 2013 VHF-UHF
Narrowbanding Deadline, Public Notice, WT Docket No. 99-87, 27 FCC Rcd 430 (PSHSB 2012), but the May 21
Public Notice provided additional information for interested parties.) Motorola Solutions, Inc filed supporting
comments on June 11, 2012.
2 See 47 C.F.R. § 90.209(b)(5); see also Implementation of Sections 309(j) and 337 of the Communications Act of
1934 as Amended; Promotion of Spectrum Efficient Technologies on Certain Part 90 Frequencies, Third
Memorandum Opinion and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order
, WT Docket No.
99-87, RM-9332, 19 FCC Rcd 25045 (2004). On April 26, 2012, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Public
Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology waived the January 1, 2013
narrowbanding deadline for 470-512 MHz band frequencies. See Implementation of Sections 309(j) and 337 of the
Communications Act of 1934 as Amended; Promotion of Spectrum Efficient Technologies on Certain Part 90
Frequencies, Order, WT Docket No. 99-87, RM-9332, 27 FCC Rcd 4213 (WTB/PSHSB/OET 2012).
3 Request at 3-4.

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1236

transport more than 4.5 million customers each workday.4 The rapid transit operations communications
system consists of 119 radio sites, of which 83 are underground and 36 are outdoors.5 Because channels
are reused at multiple locations, however, the system occupies only 23 discrete VHF frequencies, of
which 16 are former Railroad Radio Service frequencies.
3. In 2003, NYCTA began an extensive, multiyear program to modernize and upgrade the system
and transition to narrowband operations, which included procuring approximately 15,000 portable
narrowband-capable radios.6 NYCTA states that its narrowbanding efforts have been complicated by
actions beyond its control that delayed the awarding of the contract to complete the narrowband
transition. Specifically, a 2008 change in the project’s procurement methodology delayed the awarding of
the contract until 2010, at which time the New York State Comptroller rejected the contract that NYCTA
awarded.7 NYCTA then had to request new proposals, and the new contract was not approved until this
year.8
4. NYCTA requests a 42-month extension, until June 30, 2016, to replace and reprogram radio
base stations and related site equipment throughout the subway system. It states that work related to
above-ground transmitter sites will be completed first (by August 31, 2014), so that outdoor radio
transmissions will be in narrowband mode as soon as possible in order to minimize potential interference
to other licensees.9
5. Discussion. To obtain a waiver of the Commission’s Rules a petitioner must demonstrate
either that (i) the underlying purpose of the rule(s) would not be served or would be frustrated by
application to the present case, and that a grant of the waiver would be in the public interest;10 or (ii) in
view of unique or unusual factual circumstances of the instant case, application of the rule(s) would be
inequitable, unduly burdensome, or contrary to the public interest or the applicant has no reasonable
alternative.11 Applying this standard to narrowbanding, we have stated in the Narrowbanding Waiver
Guidance Notice,
jointly issued by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Public Safety and
Homeland Security Bureau, and the Office of Engineering and Technology, that narrowbanding waiver
requests “will be subject to a high level of scrutiny” under the waiver standard.12 We have also provided
recommended guidance on the factors that licensees should address in their requests and have
recommended that in addressing these factors, licensees should seek to demonstrate that “(i) they have
worked diligently and in good faith to narrowband their systems expeditiously; (ii) their specific


4 Id. at 2.
5 Id. at 8.
6 Id. at 6-7.
7 Id.
8 Id. at 7-8.
9 Id. at 8, 11-12, 16.
10 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3)(i).
11 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3)(ii).
12 Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of Engineering
and Technology Provide Reminder of January 1, 2013 Deadline for Transition to Narrowband Operations in the
150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz Bands and Guidance for Submission of Requests for Waiver and Other Matters,
Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 9647 (WTB/PSHSB/OET 2011) (Narrowbanding Waiver Guidance Notice).
2

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1236

circumstances warrant a temporary extension of the deadline; and (iii) the amount of time for which a
waiver is requested is no more than is reasonably necessary to complete the narrowbanding process.”13
6. Based on the record before us, we conclude that NYCTA has presented sufficient facts to meet
the high standard for grant of the requested waiver. NYCTA has spent considerable time and money and
made substantial progress in its effort to narrowband its PLMR system. The record shows that NYCTA
began an extensive program to upgrade its subway radio system in 2003. Strict application of the
narrowbanding rules would require NYCTA to expedite its contracted work schedule and risk service
interruptions for millions of daily customers. We conclude that strict enforcement of the narrowbanding
deadline under these circumstances would be inequitable and unduly burdensome, and that a waiver
would be in the public interest. In reaching this conclusion, we place significant weight on the showing
that NYCTA has made with respect to the factors identified in our Narrowbanding Waiver Guidance
Notice.

7. First, NYCTA has shown diligence in its transition to narrowband technology. Since 2003,
NYCTA has developed a master plan to migrate to narrowband operations, held several rounds of
bidding, executed a final contract with a vendor, and purchased approximately 15,000 radios.14 NYCTA
hoped to meet the 2013 narrowbanding deadline before its contracting process was twice interrupted.15
Furthermore, NYCTA is implementing its narrowband transition as part of a comprehensive, multi-year
subway radio system upgrade. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the 42-month waiver period
requested by NYCTA is no more than is reasonably necessary to complete its transition to narrowband
operations.16
8. Second, NYCTA must upgrade its radio system in one of the most complex transit systems in
the world. NYCTA operates 119 radio sites with multiple base stations and a network of remote
receivers, serving 468 passenger stations and 800 miles of track.17 Due to its age, all of NYCTA’s rapid
transit operations VHF radio equipment must be replaced to comply with the narrowbanding mandate.18
Unlike most transit systems, NYCTA does not shut down daily to allow for maintenance and upgrades, so
most of the work must be conducted along active rights-of-way under temporary service diversions that
must end before the next rush hour period.19 Grant of the waiver will allow NYCTA to continue its
contracted transition to narrowbanding technology without jeopardizing essential system reliability as it
upgrades. Furthermore, NYCTA plans to upgrade its above-ground transmitters first, thereby minimizing
potential interference to other licensees during the transition.
9. Conclusion and Ordering Clauses. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that grant of the
requested waiver is warranted. Accordingly, we grant NYCTA a waiver of the Commission’s January 1,
2013 VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadline until June 30, 2016, for the above-listed call signs.


13 Id. at 9649.
14 Request at 13.
15 Id. at 6.
16 See Narrowbanding Waiver Guidance Notice, 26 FCC Rcd at 9649 (waiver applicant should show that “the
amount of time for which a waiver is requested is no more than is reasonably necessary to complete the
narrowbanding process”).
17 Request at 8.
18 Id. at 9.
19 Id. at 9, 14.
3

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1236

10. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED pursuant to Section 4(i) of the Communications Act of 1934,
as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 154(i), and Section 1.925(b)(3) of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R.
§ 1.925(b)(3), that the Request for Waiver of Commission Rules on Behalf of New York City Transit
Authority, filed on January 27, 2012 by the New York City Transit Authority IS GRANTED.
11. This action is taken under delegated authority pursuant to Sections 0.131, 0.331, 0.191, and
0.392 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.131, 0.331, 0.191, 0.392.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Scot Stone
Deputy Chief, Mobility Division
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
Thomas J. Beers
Chief, Policy and Licensing Division
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
4

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.

close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.