About

The Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) service was first established by the Commission in 1979 to provide land mobile communications on a commercial (i.e., for profit) basis. A traditional SMR system consists of one or more base station transmitters, one or more antennas, and end user radio equipment that usually consists of a mobile radio unit either provided by the end user or obtained from the SMR operator for a fee. SMR end users may operate in either an "interconnected" mode or a "dispatch" mode. Interconnected mode connects mobile radio units with the public switched telephone network (PSTN) through the SMR base station. This allows the mobile radio unit to function as a mobile telephone. Dispatch mode allows two-way, over the air, voice communications between two or more mobile units (e.g., between a car and a truck) or between mobile units and fixed units (e.g., between the end user's office and a truck).

Types of SMR Systems

SMR systems consist of three distinct types: conventional radio system (see definition in rule 90.7), trunked radio system (see definition in rule 90.7), and 800 MHz cellular system (see definition in rule 90.7 or FCC 04-168 (pdf). A conventional radio system typically utilizes high powered base stations. End users must manually monitor channels to ensure that they are not occupied before talking. If someone else is already using that end user's assigned channel, the end user must wait until the channel is available. In contrast, a trunked radio system combines channels and contains micro processing capabilities that automatically search for an open channel. This search capability allows more users to be served at any one time. Finally, 800 MHz cellular systems, that also utilize micro processing capabilities, additionally use low powered base stations and reuse frequencies over a wide operating area to further increase the efficient use of the spectrum. The majority of the current SMR systems are either trunked radio systems or 800 MHz cellular systems.
 

Usage

Traditionally SMR systems were used for dispatch, but with the introduction of cellular systems in the band two-way voice use has become more prominent. The development of a digital SMR marketplace has allowed new features and services, such as internet access, two-way acknowledgment paging and inventory tracking, credit card authorization, automatic vehicle location, fleet management, remote database access, and voicemail. The growth of SMR systems has been significant due to these developments.
 

SMR Terminology

Band Names
Upper 200 channels: 200 SMR channels from channels 401 through 600 (channel blocks A, B, and C) prior to band reconfiguration ; channels from 511 through 710 (channel blocks A, B, and C) after band reconfiguration.
Lower 80 channels: 80 SMR channels interleaved from channel 201 through 388 (channel blocks G-V) prior to band reconfiguration; 80 SMR channels interleaved from channel 315 through 510 (site based licensing with grandfathered non-cellular channel blocks G-V) after band reconfiguration.
 
General Category channels
150 SMR channels from 1 through 150 (channel blocks D, D1, E, E1, F, F1 (or D, DD, E, EE, F, FF in ULS)) prior to band reconfiguration; most of this spectrum will be occupied by NPSPAC (Public Safety) users after band reconfiguration.
Geographic Area Names
EA: Fundamental geographic areas for the 800 MHz SMR services are referred to as Economic Areas (EA’s) and are defined in rule 90.7. These same areas are also referred to as Basic Economic Areas (BEA’s) for auctions and licensing purposes. Counties are combined to create EA’s. The US and its territories are divided into 175 EA’s which may be partitioned.
 
MTA
Fundamental geographic areas for 900 MHz SMR services are referred to as Major Trading Area’s (MTA’s) and are defined in rule 90.7. Counties are combined to create MTA’s. The US and its territories are divided into 51 MTA’s which may be partitioned.

Radio Service Codes

  • GL: 900 Conventional SMR site specific (introduced for band reconfiguration)
  • GM: 800 Conventional SMR site specific (introduced for band reconfiguration)
  • GR: 900 Conventional SMR
  • GX: 800 Conventional SMR
  • YC: 800 Auctioned SMR
  • YD: 900 Auctioned SMR
  • YH: 800 Auctioned SMR - Rebanded YC (introduced for band reconfiguration)
  • YL: 900 Trunked SMR site specific (introduced for band reconfiguration)
  • YM: 800 Trunked SMR site specific (introduced for band reconfiguration)
  • YS: 900 Trunked SMR
  • YX: 800 Trunked SMR

Auctions History

As of the last update to this web site there have been four auctions of the 800 MHz band and two auctions of the 900 MHz band. There is additional information regarding auctions at the FCC Auctions Home Page. The six SMR service auctions are listed below.
 
800 MHz
On December 8, 1997, the Federal Communications Commission completed the auction of 525 licenses (three licenses in each of 175 EA geographic areas) for the upper 200 channels of the 800 MHz band. The auction raised (in net high bids) a total of $96,232,060.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 16).
On September 1, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission completed the auction of 1050 licenses (6 licenses in each of 175 EA geographic areas) for the general category channels of the 800 MHz band (prior to Band Reconfiguration). The auction raised (in net high bids) a total of $319,451,810.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 34).
On December 5, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission completed the auction of 2800 licenses (16 licenses in each of 175 EA geographic areas) for the lower 80 channels of the 800 MHz band. The auction raised (in net high bids) a total of $28,978,385.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 36).
On January 17, 2002, the Federal Communications Commission completed the Multi Radio Service Auction, which consisted of various types of wireless licenses, including 23 licenses for the general category channels of the 800 MHz band (prior to Band Reconfiguration). The auction raised (for the 23 licenses in net high bids) a total of $1,365,525.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 43).
 
900 MHz
On April 15, 1996, the Federal Communications Commission completed the auction of 1020 licenses (20 licenses in each of 51 MTA geographic areas). The auction raised (in net high bids) a total of $204,267,144.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 7).
On February 25, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission completed the auction of 55 900 MHz SMR licenses. The auction raised (in net high bids) a total of $4,861,020.00 for the US Treasury (Auction 55).

Data

Band Plan

Two distinct sets of frequencies are available for SMR operation: 800 MHz and 900 MHz. Prior to Band Reconfiguration, a total of twenty-six and one-half MHz of spectrum was available in the SMR Service (refer to the 800 MHz Band Plan); twenty-one and one-half MHz in the 800 MHz band and five MHz in the 900 MHz band. 800 MHz SMR systems operate on paired 25 kHz channels with 45 MHz separation between the base and mobile channel while 900 MHz systems operate on paired 12.5 kHz channels with 39 MHz separation between the base and mobile channel. The radio equipment used for 800 MHz SMRs generally is not compatible with the equipment used for 900 MHz SMRs.  After Band Reconfiguration there will be 14 MHz of spectrum for ESMRs, 2 MHz of spectrum for a Guard Band, 2 MHz of spectrum for an Expansion Band, and 12.5 MHz of spectrum for B/ILT, Public Safety, and Non-Cellular SMRs.
 
800 MHz
Prior to Band Reconfiguration, there were a total of 430 channel pairs allocated in the 800 MHz SMR services in non-border areas (see rule 90.613 and rule 90.617). To auction licenses in the 800 MHz band, the above channels were combined into six 25 channel blocks on the general category channels (D, D1, E, E1, F, F1) – most of these blocks have been eliminated by band reconfiguration -, three blocks (A, B, and C) on the upper 200 channels, and sixteen blocks (G through V) on the lower 80 channels.
The channel blocks discussed above are different sizes. On the upper 200 channels, block A comprises 20 channel pairs (1MHz), block B comprises 60 channel pairs (3MHz), and block C comprises 120 channel pairs (6MHz). Each of the general category channel blocks contain 25 channel pairs (1.25MHz), and each of the lower 80 channel blocks contain 5 channel pairs (250KHz).

Band Plan

Band Plan Icon  SMR 800 MHz (pdf)
 
900 MHz
There are a total of 200 channel pairs allocated to the 900 MHz SMR service in non-border areas (see rule 90.613 and rule 90.617). To auction licenses in the 900 MHz band, the above channels were combined into 20 blocks (A through T) with 10 channel pairs (250KHz) per block.
 

Service Areas

Prior to the First Report and Order and Eighth Report and Order released December 15, 1995, licenses in the 800 MHz SMR service were issued on a site by site basis. These site-based licenses are referred to as incumbent licenses. Since the introduction of auctions in the service, new licenses are issued on a geographic area basis. Each license consists of a block of frequencies (a group of 800 MHz channels) for a specific geographic area. Geographic area licensees must provide protection to incumbent licensees in accordance with rule 90.683 and rule 90.621(b).

Prior to the Second Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making released April 17, 1995, licenses in the 900 MHz SMR service were issued on a site by site basis within Designated Filing Areas (DFA’s) and around DFA’s on a secondary basis (Phase I). Phase I licenses for which applications were filed on or prior to August 9, 1994 are now referred to as incumbent licenses. Since the introduction of auctions in the service, new licenses are issued on a geographic area basis. Each license consists of a block of frequencies (a group of 900 MHz channels) for a specific geographic area. Geographic area licensees must provide protection to incumbent licensees in accordance with rule 90.663 and rule 90.621(b).

Incumbent Service Areas

An 800 MHz incumbent licensee’s service area is defined by its originally licensed 40 dBu field strength contour (see rule 90.693). An incumbent licensee may add, remove, or modify transmitter sites within their original 22 dBu filed strength contour (calculated using maximum ERP and actual HAAT) so long as their original 22 dBu field strength contour is not expanded and the station complies with short spacing criteria of rule 90.621(b). Special provisions may apply to some 800 MHz spectrum as discussed in rule 90.693(c).
A 900 MHz incumbent licensee’s service area is defined by its originally licensed 40 dBu field strength contour (see rule 90.667). Incumbent licensees may add, remove or modify facilities within their service areas so long as they do not expand their original 40 dBu field strength contour.

800 MHz Basic Economic Areas (BEAs)

To accommodate geographic area licensing and auctions in the 800 MHz SMR services, 175 geographic areas were created. The geographic areas are called Economic Areas (EA’s) and are defined in rule 90.7. These same areas are also referred to as Basic Economic Areas (BEA’s) for licensing purposes. Links to BEA’s are listed below.
arrow in front of link By County
arrow in front of link By Name of BEA
arrow in front of link By BEA Number

900 MHz Major Trading Areas (MTAs)

To accommodate geographical area licensing and auctions in the 900 MHz SMR services, 51 geographic areas were created. The geographic areas are called Major Trading Areas (MTA’s) and are defined in rule 90.7. Links to MTA are listed below.

Licensing

Licenses in the 800 MHz SMR and 900 MHz SMR bands are contained in the Universal Licensing System (ULS).
Maintaining a license may require periodic filings such as a modification, transfer, assignment, or renewal application or a notification of construction or consummation. For forms and fee information, see Forms & Fees.

Obtaining Spectrum

There were a total of 4375 EA licenses available in the first 800 MHz auction. Most of the licenses were sold at auction. Any license that was not sold may be available for subsequent auctions. The total number of licenses available can change at any time because of disaggregation, partitioning, or cancellations.
Currently there is no 800 MHz SMR or 900 MHz SMR spectrum scheduled for auction (see FCC Auctions Home Page). There are, however, other methods to gain access to this spectrum. Each requires a filing via the ULS.
Method for Obtaining Spectrum CFR Rule Part
Assignment of Authorization
Sale of an entire license.
1.948
Partition
Sale of part of a license based on a geographic area.
rule 90.911 (800 MHz) & rule 90.813 (900 MHz)
Disaggregation
Sale of part of a license’s spectrum.
90.1019
Partition & Disaggregation
A combination of the sale of a part of a license based on geographic area containing only a part of a license’s spectrum.
90.1019
Transfer of Control
Acquisition of a company and its assets, including its licenses.
rule 1.948
Spectrum Leasing

Leasing of all or a part of a licensee's spectrum usage rights associated with a license. licenses. More...

 

 

Radio Service Codes
GL: 900 Conventional SMR site specific
GM: 800 Conventional SMR site specific
GR: 900 Conventional SMR
GX: 800 Conventional SMR
YC: 800 Auctioned SMR
YD: 900 Auctioned SMR
YH: 800 Auctioned SMR - Rebanded YC
YL: 900 Trunked SMR site specific
YM: 800 Trunked SMR site specific
YS: 900 Trunked SMR
YX: 800 Trunked SMR

 

Operations

Treatment of Incumbents

800 MHz
Incumbent 800 SMR systems are entitled to co-channel protection by EA licensees. Specifically, EA licensees must provide protection to incumbents by locating stations at least 70 miles (113 km) from incumbent facilities or by complying with the short-spacing rules. See rule 90.621.
Incumbent systems are not allowed to expand beyond existing interference contours unless they obtain the concurrence of the EA licensee for the relevant channels or acquire the EA license. See rule 90.693.
 
900 MHz
Incumbent 900 SMR systems are entitled to co-channel protection by MTA licensees. Incumbent systems, however, are not allowed to expand beyond existing service areas unless they obtain the concurrence of the MTA licensee for the relevant channels or acquire the MTA license. See rule 90.663, rule 90.621, and rule 90.667.

Construction

Requires coverage to at least 1/3 of the population within three years and at least 2/3 coverage of the population within five years. Alternatively, within five years, a showing of “substantial service” is required. See rule 90.685 (800 MHz) or rule 90.665 (900 MHz).

Deconstruction

An SMR licensee with facilities that have discontinued operations for 90 continuous days is presumed to have permanently discontinued operations. See rule 90.631(f)

Bureau/Office: 

Updated: 
Wednesday, March 8, 2017