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About Paging


Commercial paging operates in the 35-36, 43-44, 152-159, and 454-460 MHz bands (sometimes referred to as the "Lower Band") and the 929 and 931 MHz bands (sometimes referred to as the "Upper Band") (refer to band plan). Two types of commercial paging licensees operate within these bands, common carrier paging (referred to as CCP or 931 MHz) and private carrier paging (referred to as PCP or 929 MHz).
The Commission first allocated spectrum for CCP services in 1949. CCP operates in all but the 929 MHz band. Historically, a CCP channel was assigned to a single licensee in each area on an exclusive basis. Licensees' protected service areas were based on predicted coverage of the transmitters in their systems, and licensees were required to apply for additional transmitter locations when expanding their systems. On all CCP allocations other than 931 MHz, applicants had to specify the channels they wanted. In the 931 MHz band, applications were not channel specific and the Commission had the discretion to assign a channel different from that requested. In major markets, the number of applications often exceeded the number of available channels, resulting in all applications being treated as mutually exclusive. There was a 60-day period for filing 931 MHz mutual exclusive applications and 30 days for all other CCP applications. Lotteries were used to choose which applications would be granted. In 1982, the Commission allocated 40 new channels in the 931 MHz band exclusively for use by CCP operators and dedicated three of these channels for use by nationwide systems.
PCP was established by the Commission as a service distinct from CCP and prior to 1993 was subject to different regulatory treatment. PCP operates in the 152-159, 454-460 and 929 MHz bands. Initially, PCP was authorized on specified channels within each private radio service category, with licensees authorized either to operate systems for their own internal use or to provide service to limited categories of eligible users. In 1982, the Commission allocated 40 channels in the 929 MHz band for PCP, with some channels to be licensed for internal-use systems (30 channels) and others for PCP systems that could provide commercial paging service to eligible users (10 channels) under 47 CFR Part 90. As demand grew, the Commission responded by allowing PCP operators access to the pool of 929 MHz channels set aside to meet the internal communications needs of Business Radio Service eligibles, and expanding the classes of users eligible to obtain service from PCP licensees and paging licensees in the Business Radio Service. PCP channels were licensed on a shared basis. Since multiple licenses could be granted for the same channel, these applications were not subject to mutual exclusivity selection procedures.
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Transition to Geographic Licensing

In 1993, the Omnibus Reconciliation Act amended the Communications Act to divide all mobile services into two categories, Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) and Private Mobile Radio Services (PMRS), and mandated that "substantially similar" mobile services receive comparable regulatory treatment. The Commission determined that PCP and CCP were substantially similar and that geographic area licensing should be considered for both services. As a result, the Commission allowed PCP operators to provide service to the public on virtually the same unrestricted basis as CCP operators. In a separate proceeding ("PCP Exclusivity Order") the Commission also established a mechanism for exclusive licensing on 35 of the 40 929 MHz PCP channels in order to encourage the development of wide-area paging systems. The 5 remaining channels, while allocated on a shared basis, along with lower band shared paging channels may be licensed to offer either commercial paging services or private, internal-use paging services. Only approximately 10 percent of the total allocated paging spectrum continues to be licensed on a shared basis.
Prior to 1997, both CCP and PCP paging operators chose the areas they sought to serve by applying for licenses on a site-by-site basis. Thus, the boundary of the licensee's service area was derived from the composite service areas of existing base stations. In 1996, the Commission began to consider geographic licensing of paging channels. While the Commission considered this change, it established interim licensing rules in order to prevent a flood of speculative applications and an increase in opportunities for fraudulent investment schemes. The interim licensing rules suspended acceptance of new applications for paging channels (except for nationwide exclusive channels and for private, internal-use systems) pending resolution of fraud-related issues, but allowed incumbent licensees to add sites within 40 miles of operating sites. In a subsequent modification of the interim rules, incumbents operating on shared channels were not subject to the 40 mile limitation.
In 1997, the Commission adopted geographic licensing for exclusive channels which would give greater flexibility to licensees and greater ease of administration for the FCC. The Commission also adopted competitive bidding rules to resolve mutually exclusive applications. The remaining shared channels were not converted to exclusive channels nor to geographic area licensing. Nationwide 929 MHz and 931 MHz geographic area licenses were granted without competitive bidding. The Commission determined that all mutually exclusive applications for non-nationwide 931 MHz channels and exclusive non-nationwide 929 MHz channels would be subject to competitive bidding for geographic area licenses for 51 Major Economic Areas (MEAs). All remaining CCP channels (i.e. 35-36 MHz, 43-44 MHz, 152-159 MHz, and 454-460 MHz) would be subject to competitive bidding for geographic area licenses in 172 Economic Areas (EAs) for each channel.
As a result, all pending mutually exclusive applications for paging licenses (other than applications on nationwide and shared channels) filed with the Commission on or before July 31, 1996 were dismissed. All non-mutually exclusive applications filed with the Commission on or before July 31, 1996 were processed.
Incumbent site-by-site licensees were permitted to either continue operating under existing authorizations or trade in their site-specific licenses for a single system-wide license demarcated by the aggregate of the interference contours around each of the incumbents' contiguous sites operating on the same channel. Incumbent licensees are permitted to add a "fill-in" site or relocate existing facilities provided there is no expansion of the existing composite interference contour.
A fill-in application seeks to add a transmitter to a station, in the same area and transmitting on the same channel or channel block as previously authorized transmitters but does not expand the existing composite interference contour. Generally, a fill-in is established to improve reception in dead spots. All fill-ins must be filed on FCC Form 601. Those above Line A must be filed on Form 601 and receive coordination clearance from Industry Canada prior to operation (refer to the International Agreement).
In 2001, the Commission lifted the interim licensing rules for shared paging channels after adding language to FCC Form 601 warning applicants that failure of a licensee to meet construction or coverage requirements would result in termination of the license. The Commission determined that adding such language would be generally helpful to applicants in all services and might also help deter fraud. The lifting of the freeze enables non-incumbent applicants to again file for commercial operation on the lower band shared paging channels and the five 929 MHz shared paging channels.
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