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This FCC order (below) describes how ATCS freqs came to no longer require licenses for each site on a railroad. Rather, the AAR secured a nationwide license covering the paths along major rail routes across the US. The FCC granted control of a swath or "ribbon" of space 70mi either side of the rail routes the AAR is coordinating ATCS freqs for.

So after 2001 it's quite probable that licenses will not appear for new ATCS sites. Beyond that, it's up to the AAR to coordinate ATCS frequency usage for each RR in a given region. The AAR's license for the Ribbon is WPSF894. If for some reason you want to research old licenses for xmitter locations, etc, search the FCC ULS for FRN 0004228995 at http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp

This ribbon order does not cover ARES protocol freqs in the AAR VHF (voice) band, but I'm told similar rules, or nationwide allocations cover things like DPU and EOT operation.

MAS systems like Genisys, SCS128, MCS1, DataTrain, etc are also not covered under this and must secure site/path licenses.

-Gary Hahn (thanks to contributors)

Before the
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of

Petition of Association of American Railroads
(AAR) for Modification of Licenses For Use in
Advanced Train Control Systems and Positive
Train Control Systems


Adopted:  February 13, 2001          Released: February 15, 2001

By the Chief, Public Safety and Private Wireless Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau:

1.We have before us a petition for modification of licenses (Petition) filed by the Association of
American Railroads (AAR) on March 24, 2000.  AAR, which is the licensee of over three hundred
private land mobile radio (PLMR) call signs in connection with an Advanced Train Control System
(ATCS), seeks to modify these licenses to receive a single geographic area license.  For the reasons set
forth below, we grant AAR's Petition.
3.In 1986 and 1987, AAR, which represents virtually every major American railroad, filed
hundreds of PLMR applications for thousands of base stations, seeking authorization to use six specific
frequency pairs in the 900 MHz band.  Specifically, AAR requested licenses for these frequency pairs to
facilitate the construction and development of an ATCS, which is now referred to as Positive Train
Control (PTC).  These frequencies were to be used to build the largest and most complex land mobile
radio communications system in the world, enabling the transfer of large volumes of data between
locomotives, work crews, and computerized control centers.  AAR envisioned that implementation of
the ATCS would automate rail operations nationwide, enabling railroads to operate more safely,
efficiently, and economically.  For example, the system was designed to prevent train collisions, high
speed accidents, and incursions into locations reserved for railway workers.  Because some of the
ATCS's operating requirements could not be met under the Commission's regulations, AAR sought a
waiver of Sections 90.621(d) (providing a means for achieving exclusivity by a seventy-mile protection
contour for stations meeting loading requirement), 90.623(a) (limiting the number of channels that may
be assigned to a licensee for operation in the conventional mode to five), 90.629 (limiting extended
implementation periods to three years), 90.629(b) (requiring annual progress reports by licensees with
extended implementation periods, and providing that exclusivity for conventional channels cancels
automatically if the implementation schedule is not met), 90.633(a) (setting a loading requirement of
seventy mobile units), 90.633(c) (requiring construction within eight months of license grant unless an
extended implementation period is granted), and 90.651(c) (requiring loading report within eight months
of license grant) of the Commission's Rules.
4.In 1988, the Commission granted AAR's request.  The Commission allowed AAR ten years in
which to complete the proposed ATCS project.  Rather than grant AAR the exclusive use of the six
frequencies nationwide, as AAR had requested, the Commission established an eighty-mile zone of
protection around each site for the duration of the ten-year construction period, and provided that
applicants for those channels outside this zone would first have to seek alternative 800 and 900 MHz
frequencies.  The Order required that AAR submit a final report at the end of the ten-year period
identifying the locations of all base stations and the number of mobile units associated with those
stations.  In order to retain exclusivity after ten years (in the form of a seventy-mile zone of protection),
AAR would have to demonstrate that it met the loading requirements.  For those stations not meeting
the requisite loading criteria, the Commission stated that it would consider applications from other users
on the six frequencies if the proposed operations would not threaten rail safety.  The Commission also
stated that it would still require other applicants for the six frequencies to exhaust alternative channels
5.In its final report, AAR certified that all the licensed stations were constructed and the loading
requirements were met.  In accordance with the policies set forth in the Order, to date, no other PLMR
licensees have been authorized to use the six frequencies licensed to AAR for ATCS use.  In the years
since the licenses were originally granted, AAR has relocated or otherwise modified a number of sites; in
each case, this has required the filing of an individual modification application.
6.On March 24, 2000, AAR filed the instant Petition seeking to modify its ATCS licenses by
consolidating them into a single geographic area license.  On May 26, 2000, the Public Safety and Private
Wireless Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a Public Notice seeking
comment on AAR's proposal.  Comments were filed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the
federal agency responsible for setting railroad standards, and the Industrial Telecommunications
Association (ITA), a FCC-certified PLMR frequency coordinator.  AAR filed reply comments.
8.AAR's Petition seeks modification of the licenses for its ATCS/PTC stations into a single
geographic area license.  Under AAR's proposal, the scope of the modified license would be defined as a
seventy-mile zone on either side of the rights-of-way of all operating rail lines in the United States.  If
its Petition is granted, AAR plans to issue sub-licenses to the individual railroads that use ATCS/PTC,
and will maintain a computerized database of all site-specific information pertaining to such sub-
licenses.  In addition, the FCC and FCC-certified PLMR frequency coordinators will have access to the
AAR database via the Internet.  AAR also will provide the Commission and frequency coordinators
with access to a software program that determines whether any given point in the United States is within
the seventy-mile zone.
9.AAR argues that its proposal, by eliminating the need for the filing and review of an individual
modification application every time an ATCS/PTC station is relocated, will both streamline the
Commission's licensing processes and provide AAR with needed flexibility in choosing where to deploy
ATCS/PTC base stations.  We agree with AAR and FRA that implementation of this proposal would
enhance administrative efficiency for both the Commission and AAR; moreover, we believe that such a
streamlining is in the public interest.  We also find that such a licensing approach will result in
improvements to the safety of train operations in general, because the increased flexibility inherent in a
geographic area license should facilitate the deployment of current and future ATCS/PTC facilities. 
AAR also argues that granting its Petition will ensure that the railroads' safety-critical communications
data links continue to be protected from interference, while at the same time promoting full spectrum
utilization by allowing the six channel pairs to be fully accessed by non-railroad users outside the
boundary of the geographic license.  Finally, AAR notes that the Canadian government has licensed the
six 900 MHz channel pairs used for ATCS/PTC under a single nationwide, geographic area license to the
Railway Association of Canada.  AAR argues that we should conform the United States licensing with
that of the Canadian government.  We agree that international harmonization would further the public
interest by contributing to smooth transborder operations.
10.ITA, on the other hand, contests AAR's assertion regarding full spectrum utilization.  First,
ITA suggests that 140 miles is "perhaps excessive" in light of the fact that the area to be served will be
limited to the railroad tracks, a comparably small area.  Second, ITA contends that a 140-mile wide
zone of protection will limit the promotion of full utilization of the spectrum  to non-critical rural areas.
Third, ITA questions whether "interference with railroad communications in the 900 MHz
Industrial/Land Transportation Pool is a critical issue," and urges us to seek documentation of any
interference complaints or concerns.  ITA also is concerned that coordinating these frequencies for non-
railroad use will be difficult because it will not be able to identify and define the 140-mile wide protected
area surrounding the railroads' rights-of-way.  
11.Based on the record in this proceeding, we conclude that AAR's ATCS licenses should be
modified as requested.  We agree with AAR that the 140-mile protection zone is reasonable because it is
derived from the fixed seventy-mile separation distance between co-channel stations set forth in Section
90.621(b) of the Commission's Rules.  In addition, we find persuasive AAR's explanation that the
reason that there have been no complaints of interference in connection with the ATCS is that non-
railroad users are currently not coordinated on the six ATCS/PTC frequency pairs.  Should AAR's
proposal be granted, however, non-railroad users will be permitted access to these channels outside of the
140-mile protected zone, and interference could become an issue.  The 140-mile protected zone is
therefore necessary to ensure the continued integrity of AAR's operations.  Regarding ITA's concern
that full spectrum utilization will be limited to non-critical rural areas, we agree with AAR that a grant of
its proposal will not suddenly limit the availability of spectrum for non-railroad use to non-critical rural
areas, because AAR's current licenses are already protected from non-railroad use, and rail lines are
clustered around major population centers.  Consequently, non-railroad users are already mostly
precluded from co-channel operations near these metropolitan areas.  Finally, we find that ITA's
frequency coordination concerns are addressed by AAR's plan to make available to the Commission and
the frequency coordinators a computer software program that will identify all points in the United States
that are inside and outside of the area of the geographic license.
13.AAR has persuaded us that significant public safety benefits will be realized by granting its
Petition.  The importance of an efficient, ubiquitous, and internationally coordinated railroad
communications system is apparent, and we believe that this Order will facilitate the continued success
and development of ATCS/PTC throughout the United States.  Therefore, we direct the Licensing and
Technical Analysis Branch of the Public Safety and Private Wireless Division to issue a single
nationwide geographic area license, defined by a 140-mile wide swath or ribbon that tracks all of the
railroad rights-of-way in the United States, to replace AAR's existing site-by-site licenses for the six
ATCS/PTC frequency pairs.  The modified license shall expire on the expiration date of the earliest-to-
expire existing license.  As with other geographic area licenses, the licensee may locate, move, or
modify its stations anywhere within its 140-mile wide geographic area without obtaining Commission
consent, except that AAR must individually license any facility that requires an Environmental
Assessment pursuant to Section 1.1307 of the Commission's Rules or international coordination, or
would affect the radio frequency quiet zones described in Section 1.924 of the Commission's Rules.  In
addition, the requirement that any antenna structure that requires notification to the Federal Aviation
Administration must be registered with the Commission prior to construction under Section 17.4 of the
Commission's Rules continues to apply.
14.Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 4(i) of the Communications Act of
1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. � 154(i), and Section 1.925 of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. � 1.925,
the Petition for Modification of Licenses filed by the American Association of Railroads on March 24,
2000 IS GRANTED as set forth herein.
15.IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Public Safety and Private Wireless Division, Licensing
and Technical Analysis Branch SHALL PROCESS the modification applications filed by the American
Association of Railroads on April 18, 2000 in accordance with this Order.
16.This action is taken under delegated authority pursuant to Sections 0.131 and 0.331 of the
Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. �� 0.131, 0.331.

D'wana R. Terry
Chief, Public Safety and Private Wireless Division
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

-- Main.GaryHahn - 31 Aug 2008