Some residents living near Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield began having problems with their garage-door remote-control devices in April, right after the installation made changes to its radio equipment.
“Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield recently upgraded radio equipment on communications towers that support emergency response (including 911), military police, training range operations and safety, and airfield operations,” said Kevin Larson, public affairs officer. “As soon as the new equipment was activated on April 10, 2013, reports of interference with garage-door openers in the Savannah-area were received almost immediately.”
Larson said his office submitted several press releases in response to the complaints.
Stewart-Hunter still is operating in the 380.0-399.9 megahertz bands assigned by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration specifically for military operations. This spectrum is critical for military operations, he said.
“Older, vintage garage-door openers and some other household radio-based devices operate in the same frequency range without (Federal Communications Commission) authorization or licensing,” Larson said. “Owners of these low-power devices are unlicensed users who, according to the FCC, must accept any interference caused by licensed users.”
Larson said the frequency assignment has been around for decades. Only in recent years has the military caused interference in those frequencies, as more consumer products compete for radio frequencies. He emphasized suppliers of garage-door remotes and other radio-based home devices are operating under the military’s assigned frequencies without a license.
According to news reports, the upgrade included repeaters installed on five towers. Repeaters receive and amplify a radio signal before sending it to the next tower.
Complaints of interference to garage-door openers were mostly in Chatham and Bryan counties, though at least one reported complaint was in Liberty County, the article said. Other military communities in Texas, California and Connecticut have also reported similar interference.
Homeowners affected by the equipment upgrade reportedly were contacting their garage-door suppliers, battery stores and local police.
Elliott explained that the military has to operate within a wide spectrum in order to switch frequencies as needed. If the military was restricted to operating on a single frequency, anyone could listen.
“We sincerely regret that this upgrade has caused economic and other hardships for those affected,” Larson said. “However, the radio system upgrade is critical to protecting our soldiers and their families and maintaining our status as a power projection platform installation.”