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Don’t Disrupt Staff Communications

You may have heard the term “narrowbanding” over the past twenty years and thought it only applies to public safety organizations, manufacturing environments or maybe transportation and logistics companies.

In fact, the hospitality industry is directly affected by a narrowbanding mandate which will be newly enforced at the end of this year. Your staff communications will be affected and possibly disrupted by narrowbanding, and noncompliance can damage your guests’ experiences. The deadline is approaching quickly, and now is the time to ensure your staff communications are maintained.

But with knowledge about narrowbanding and its unique implications on your front-of-house and back-of-house personnel, and a clear action plan to ensure compliance, you can not only protect, but actually enhance, your ability to deliver exceptional guest experiences

WHAT IS NARROWBANDING?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released numerous rulings defining the requirements and mandating specific deadlines for narrowbanding across the commercial radio spectrum. Spectrum refers to the frequency bands that radios and other communications equipment use to voice and data and information. Spectrum allows delivery of a message from one radio to another.

Nearly twenty years ago, the FCC started the narrowbanding proceedings in an effort to promote more efficient spectrum use in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) Part 90 radio frequency bands. Yet, because of a law passed by Congress in February, the FCC waived the deadline for the 470-512 MHz (T-Band) frequencies used in eleven major metro areas, but reiterated that the law will be enforced in 2013 for the non-excluded bands.

Since 2004, the FCC mandated all VHF and UHF Public Safety and Industrial/Business licensees using 25 kHz land mobile radio (LMR) systems migrate to at least narrowband 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by Jan. 1, 2013.

IMPACT ON HOTELS
So what does this mean to the hospitality industry? It means all of your radios need to be operating in at least 12.5 kHz efficiency in these affected frequency bands. By not completing the switch on time, you may have to pay a fine of up to $16,000 for each violation or each day of continued violation, up to $112,500 for any single violation. FCC licenses may even be revoked.

Needless to say, these issues could have serious implications on your guest experiences. Your staff relies on its radios to communicate important issues, such as dispatching an engineer to resolve a maintenance issue in a guest room, handling a runner request from guest services responding to a guest request or attending to a housekeeping issue.
Imagine losing the ability to use these radios and having a major security issue. For example, a guest calls the front desk to report knocking on his or her door from an unknown person. The front desk tries to reach security, but use of the radio is no longer authorized and the security contact is in another section of the hotel with no access to a landline phone. The ability to quickly reach the right staff members is eliminated, resulting in a potential guest safety issue.

By taking the right steps now, you can ensure little to no impact on your day-to-day operations and guarantee your staff can communicate with each other quickly while maintaining your high standards for the guest experience.

STEPS TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE
Take inventory of your radios. Check all the radios that you are currently using, any radios you have in storage and any radios you are planning to purchase. Write down their brand, model names and quantity of each radio type.

Assess what you’ll need to replace. Most radios manufactured in the last 10 years are capable of operating at a 12.5 kHz efficiency (Narrowband) mode. Radios with this dual-mode 25/12.5 kHz technology can become compliant with a software update. Others will need to be replaced.

Conduct tests. During these conversions, test your Narrowband equipment to ensure your system continues to provide similar coverage levels as before. For example, the switch to 12.5 kHz efficiency mode on your existing radio may cause the signal to become distorted in a basement or parking garage. This might be an excellent time to determine how your radio needs have changed over the years and consider enhancing your two-way radio solution. Based on this information, you may want to consider purchasing newer digital systems that are still compliant, but will retain your level of coverage.

Develop a budget. If you need to replace your system or are upgrading to new communications equipment, consider developing a plan to phase out old radios and implement new ones. Remember the deadline is Jan. 1, 2013 and if you do not comply, the FCC may revoke licenses or impose hefty fines.

Establish a conversion and implementation schedule. Based on your radios capabilities and the number of radios that need to be converted or replaced and budget, you have no time to lose. If your system review showed that you can simply switch to a 12.5 kHz efficiency mode and still maintain your level of coverage, you’ll need less time to simply reprogram your radios than if your review showed a need to purchase new radios. But in either case, you only have a few months left to help ensure your authorized, uninterrupted use of your radio communications.

Tom Moore leads Motorola’s strategy and direction for the hospitality and healthcare industries. This includes voice of the customer, partner strategies, driving revenue-based programs to support marketing, sales, and product management initiatives.

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