All existing Part 90 radio systems operating on frequencies between 150-512 MHz have to convert those systems either to 12.5 kHz bandwidth or to a technology that provides one voice path per 12.5 kHz of bandwidth or provides a data rate of 4800 bps/6.25 kHz. This Deadline is not expected to be extended any further by the FCC, having done so once already. Licensees will be required to certify to the Commission that they have made the technical necessary changes and are using narrowband equipment. Licensees that do not meet this deadline will be cancelled by the FCC and relicensing of cancelled systems will become very difficult.
Narrowbanding does not require moving to another frequency band. You reduce the bandwidth of the channel(s) you are now using.
Most radios purchased in the last 6-8 years are already narrowband capable. They only need to be re-tuned or re-programmed by a technician to comply with the Rules. Check with your dealer or service shop to identify which units may need to be replaced.
Your coverage will remain approximately the same. Only a thorough analysis of your coverage requirements can tell for sure.
You do not have to convert to digital. However, many licensees are using this opportunity to upgrade to digital technology. Most digital radios are dual mode capable and can operate in wideband analog as well as narrowband analog and digital. Digital is also more immune from adjacent channel interference and has new features that are unavailable in analog.
If your radios are not narrowband capable, you will have to spend money for new equipment and expect to spend money for retuning of existing dual-mode radios. The dates are extended to ensure most licensees have fully amortized the value of their current equipment by the time the mandates kick in. You need to PLAN IMMEDIATELY for how you will transition to narrowband operation and begin any equipment upgrades.
You will need to certify to the FCC by 1/1/2013 that you have made the conversion. Licensees who do not will likely be automatically terminated on the deadline date. Relicensing cancelled systems will not be a easy process and the FCC has indicated that they will not easily grant waivers for continued wideband operation after the deadline.