1. #1
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    Default Motorola Astro digital 800MHz system

    Anyone have any info about this system, our county uses it, and its confusing to me. They use this new system and plus the old low band. Are there any scanners out there that pick up this system? Will they be able to go the this system fully and still come over minitors? I remember back in the day when you could sit there and listen to everything but all we can hear now is the dispatcher, and i wish one day they come out with something cheap so i can listen again, cause it gets confusing without hearing what there talking about on the scene. oh well
    Ryan

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    Ryan-

    There are a lot more issues that come into play with the digital systems. First, your question reguarding a scanner. I think that Bearcat/Uniden has a scanner that will pick-up the APCO P-25 digital protocal. Now, your system is likely a trunking system and knowing Motorola and all thier little tricks they pull it is likely a Motorola trunking protocal and not a true APCO P-25. They do this so that the only radios that will work on the system are theirs. Also, their are no provisions in the P-25 standard for paging and to the best of my knowledge their are not and will not be any type of pagers/monitors that will work with this system. This may be the reason that you still have the older low band system in place yet.

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    First, a few little key terms

    APCO Project 25 Digital: Your voice is coded into data at the transmitter and then decoded at the reciever. It is a Common Air Interface and the technology is not proprietary to one Manufacturer. It can be used on a simplex radio-to-radio network, a conventional repeapter, or a trunking system. It allows voice and data transmisions (ie- voice and MDT's) to be on the same network.
    The standard is out there for anyone to use. They made it this way to allow different brand radios to be able to communicate digitally. Prior to this, everything was proprietary.

    MOTOROLA ASTRO:This is Motorola's name for APCO Project 25 Compliant digital voice modulation. There are other manufactuers making P-25 complient radios but they are few and far between. Motorola has a definate edge in the market.

    Trunking: This is a method of taking a given number of frequencies and using a computer to dish them out the units that need them. The "channels" are all virtual so to speak. These virtual channels are called talkgroups. The computer plays musical frequencies and talks to the radios on a control channel to tell them where to go. It is complicated but a very efficiant way of getting a lot out of a little when it comes to frequency use. This, unlike P-25 is not so open. It is probably a SmartNet or SmartZone system depending on how wide an area this is. You need a Motorola radio to operate on it. LTR is an open format that many manufacturers make radios for but it is not a public safety format. Used mostly for buisnesses.


    There are lots of ways to set this up. I am going to guess it is something like this.

    Your FD probably has a few "talkgroups" on this 800Mhz trunking system. This is what the apparatus use to talk to eachother and dispatch. If they were smart, it has enough coverage to allow portables to work too. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a trunking pager and there is not such thing as an Astro pager. So, the only way your going to get notified of a call is if they continue use of the low band system.

    What it seems they have done is is called "Simulcast". When the disptacher pushes the Group Transmit button, he/she is transmitting on both the Trunking system talkgroup AND the low band channel. I know it is kind of annoying because your only hearing 1/2 the conversation. Instead of hearing "Engine 1 responding... Roger Engine 1 responding", you just hear "Roger engine 1 responding". You have to rely on the dispatcher repeating the message completely to know what the hell is going on over your pager.

    The only way to make it 100% to your pager would be to setup a Cross-Patch. This is a function that creates a bi-directional link from the trunking talkgroup to the low band transmitter. What goes over low band also goes over the trunking talkgroup. What goes over the trunking talkgroup also goes over the low band. Unfortunately, this basicly doubles the base traffic on the low band radio and is more than likely a violation of the FCC license. If your lowband isn't licensed as a repeater already (which it most likely isn't), you can't do that.

    So, basicly your not going to get anything else out of your pager. They only thing you can do is aquire a properly programmed Motorola two-way radio or one of the new APCO-25 complient scanners.

    Both Uniden and Radio Shack make scanners that can recieve Apco-25 transmisions and follow the trunking system. They are NOT cheap. Expect to pay no less than $600.00 for one of these. I know, insane isn't it. Thats nuthin'. Want an actual Motorola portable radio capable of operating on this system? Start at $900 and go from there. Then you have to find someone who knows enough about the system to program it. If I were you and you don't have a need for an actual radio, get the scanner. It is a lot more versatile.


    Aren't I just the keeper of good news??
    Last edited by nmfire; 01-04-2004 at 12:07 AM.
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    That was good NMFire. I do have a couple of things to add. More just info than to help with the problem. Our county has till August for Motorola to get our system up. We were one of the recipients for the Homeland Security grant.

    In our meetings talking to the reps from Motorola. I believe he told me they would have paging capabilities by summer 2005 or spring 2006. At least that is what they were trying for. Also Kenwood has a radio that is capable of interface with the system and I do not remember who the other radio company is but someone else has one also.

    The paging and keeping the present system working was one of the shortcomings of this project. We will be using the MPSCs (MI Public Safety Communication System). They charge a Mic fee every year for maint. on the system. So now we have to pay a Mic fee of I think $200 per radio/per year and still have to maintian the present system-that was a tough pill to swallow.

    All I can say is we do need to do something with our system. We have a lot of dead spots out in the country area where I am at. I hope this is the fix that we needed. I will let you all know when we go live in August of this year.

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    What Michigan did is exactly what this stuff was made for. They have a statewide SmartZone system. The state put it in and more or less leases the use of it to municipalities. When town A decides they want to start using it, they get a bunch of talkgroups on the system for themselves. It is supposed to have fairly good portable coverage but it can be expanded upon here and there based on the need. The cost to the municipality is far less than putting up their own system and everyone can talk to eachother on one common radio system.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Thank you, they SAID they were going to go fully to the new system effective January 1 2004 but as you know thats allready passed, so I guess they will keep it the way it is for now, like you said they will have a paging thing set up in the future. Man 600 bucks your right about being expensive, i dont know maybe one of these days but knowing my luck I will buy it and then they will come out with something where it will be cheaper, thats the only disadvantage about the new system is that you can only hear half of the conversation unless you have one of our portables. so maybe one day ill look for a scanner with what capabilites, APCO? astro? 800MHZ?

    And again thanks for the help
    Ryan

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    Uniden makes four models. The prices have actually come down A LITTLE since they were released.

    BC-796D is the most current mobile $529.00
    BC-296D is the most current mobile $524.00
    These will work with your system and any new ones that happen to crop up. They are APCO digital ready out of the box and require nothing additional.


    BC-785D Mobile w/ BCi25D add-on Digital card $548.00
    BC-250D Portable w/ BCi25D add-on Digital card $497.00
    These are digital capable scanners with that add-on card. They will not work with the newest 9600baud trunking control channel but other than that, they are the same as the #96D series. I am guessing your system has been up for a while is probably NOT 9600 Baud.

    Radio Shack also has a portable similar to the 296D. It has gotten good reviews from those who have used it. It is going for $500.00

    You can go to Uniden's online factory store. They sell refurbished models often a little less than normal retial.

    www.scannerworld.com and www.scannermaseter.com arethe cheapest places your going to find any of this stuff retailed.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    nm,can you tell me what the big "hoopla" is with 800mghz systems. VHF/UHF work fine here. From these boards,it seems like 800mghz is nothing but a headache so what would be the inncentive to change over?
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

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    Well, that is a complicated question.

    If you want to build an system that integrates multiple users or agencies with a lot of individual units each (ie- all city agencies or a countywide or statewide system) you need one thing:

    LOTS OF CHANNELS!

    Now, this can get really expensive really quick if you put up like 20 repeaters. You would need a massive radio room, combiners the size of Rhode Island, and an antenna farm. You would need remote recievers all over yin-yang and at that, one for each frequecy. All of these channels sit idle when no one is using them while other agencies may at the time need it. It is really inefficient.

    Now, on top of that, this copious basket of frequencies just DOESN'T EXIST in VHF and UHF. There just aren't enough frequencies left to go around. The narrow band thing is opening it up little but it is a slow process.

    Now, top it all off. If you apply to the FCC for more than I think 5 repeater frequencies, they will tell you to go get an trunking system and make more efficiant use of what you trying to build.

    Trunking requires clear air. You can't have all the bleed over and co-channel user crap you get on VHF and UHF. It sure isn't going to work on low band. The old T band (512) is opening up a bit now but that is compatible with more or less nothing.

    So where does this leave us if you want a large capacity, multi-user system that can cover a single town or an entire state? 800MHZ TRUNKING. See, there is some reasoning being the madness here.

    The digital thing is an added bonus. The voice quality you get with digital modulation is quite impressive. It is either excellent or not there. With error-correction, it does a pretty good job. You lose a little bit of range but the range you lose would be barely readable on regular audio anyway. It also allows you to combine you voice communications and mobile data terminals on one system. It used to require two seperate systems. Also, if you want to use encryption, it works kick-*** with a digital system. The only Securenet on regular voice systems sucked. The quality was just awful. Please note, "Digital" is NOT encryption.

    Now, the "problems". Here is where the major misconceptions come in. Everyone always says "800 mhz sucks. This trunking system doesn't work. etc etc." There is one reason for this and one reason only. MONEY. This stuff is not cheap in any for of the word. So what happens is this: The municipality wants a fancy new system and Mother M (Motorola) comes along and starts working up some designs. They determine that to make it have seamless portable radio coverage throught the service area and to have enough capacity for everything they want on it, the cost will be (for example) $800,000.00. Now, the people with the checkbooks in the city or county say "we don't want to spend that much money" and they start cutting out sites here and there, cutting back capacity here and antenna height there. Now the "fancy system" only costs $600,000 and we can make a big deal in the paper how we got this great system for a great price. The only catch is that $200,000 they cut off it means portable radios don't working buildings and they don't work in this little valley, and you can't hear it over by Martha's farm house. Now everyone is up in arms. "THIS SYSTEM IS BROKEN! THIS SYSTEM DOESN'T WORK! THIS SYSTEM IS DANGEROUS!"

    The system isn't broke and it doesn't suck. It is operating exactly as it was designed to operate. It isn't going to do what they don't pay for it to do. That is where the problems come from.

    Make sense?
    Last edited by nmfire; 01-04-2004 at 07:26 PM.
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    Yes TY
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    NM, I know you seem pretty well versed with radios and such. I think I should talk to you about some of our problems........

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    Shoot me a PM. I'll offer any advice I can come up with.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    WOOWEEE checked out Unidens site, they have the BC785D for $329.00 Thats alot cheaper, the problem is, when I put my name on the waiting list you wouldnt believe what number I got 150 on the list, this isnt going to be fast to get. lol


    http://www.uniden.com/store/itemdeta...?item=B-BC785D
    Ryan

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    Yea, and you also need the $278.00 BCi25D card if you want to recieve the digital modulation with it. Check the prices on scannermaster, they are the cheapest for the 785D and add-on card.
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    Well crap, I thought that was with the card, so even on the scanner sites they are selling it for like 500 something that is without the card? cause on one it says apco capible, then the other it says digital card required
    Ryan

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    The 785D and the 250D are "capable" and "require the card" to actually do it.

    The 796D and the 296D have the digital hardware integrated and it is an all-in-one deal.... and they can do 9600 baud control channel trunking.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    nmfire, I sent you a PM. If you want, you can just email me back. It's just hard because you are limited to 1500 characters in the PMs.

    My email address is nfd151@sbcglobal.net

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    nmfire,

    Here is a system that I am on a committee to get it running.

    Digital trunked VHF state wide with all state agencies and local emergency services plus some non emergent agencies. System is Motorola and EF johnson radios. Radios also work on the existing analog frequencies.

    Each tower has a control channel and four repeaters. Radios have sixteen talk groups of sixteen channels. All towers are linked by T-1 data lines to a central computer. I can talk hand held to hand held to someone 400 miles away.

    The system is supposed to cover 90% of the state 90% of the time on mobiles. Hand held coverage is about 60%.

    Our ex-governor had the system installed two years ago and provided the radios ($2000.00-$3000.00 ea.). The problem is that no operating manuals or training were provided. We are currently writing the protocol manual and developing the training package.

    Any suggestions or copies of SOPs would be appreciated.

    Stay Safe,
    IACOJ

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    Our local county is right in the middle of implementing an 800mhz system like everyone is talking about. I have been on the committee writing specs and designing talk group setups for all the rural fire deparrtments in our area.

    Going along with 800mhz is 700mhz. Which is a radio spectrum that was being used by some tv stations (very small and localized) that was released for Public safety use. The big deal is that there will be the ability to do HIGH Speed data over this.

    When they say expensive they should spell it EXPENSIVE. The system in our county with appropriate redundacies and subscriber equipment for all Public Safety agencies (fire & Police) comes to ..... 18Million for coverage inside a class 2 building (Standard commerical structure) with a portable in 95% of the county. Actual testing is showing coverage in 98% of the county. You will never be able to spend enough money to get 100% coverage.

    The units being given to our department alone is going to cost approx 50K.

    We were very fortunate that a bond issue was passed to cover all Public Safety agencies in the county at once.

    I am hearing good things from the 1st agencies going on (County Law enforcement). But that is because for the most part the governing body did not skimp on infrastructure.

    Johnson makes radios that will work on this system also.

    Most of the horror stories you hear are just what has been stated before compromise based on Money.

    We do not go up on the system until March this year.

    Another very key ingredient is training and participation by all agencies in the design of Talk groups and Procedures.
    Remember,

    If you don't respond.....who will

    IACOJ EMS Bureau Member
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    Hello there. Question for NMFire. Here is our system that was implemented this past year. Victoria B.C. is on Vancouver Island (Farthest west in Canada)
    Background The Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications Inc. (CREST) system will consist of a fully integrated VHF Multicast, Mixed Mode, SmartZoneŽ 4.1 radio communications system. When operational, the narrow band system will seamlessly connect 22 volunteer fire departments, five career fire departments, five municipal police departments, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) district headquarters, five detachments and the BC Ambulance Service in the Victoria area. With a target completion date of spring of 2003, the new Motorola system will become the first public safety mixed mode narrow band system in Canada.

    Issues Since switching over to this system we have had unaceptable coverage inside buildings. We have had to resort to simplex mode for coverage.Now CREST has stated that the mandate was for outside coverage only. With present equipment and technology sp? can you receive signals inside on a truked system? What does it take?

    Police are fully digital ambulance and fire are on analog. Pagers are simulcast wide band. We have 38 pairs of frequencies allocated to this system and running 8 tower sites. They are linked via microwave system.

    800 Mhz was the initial route however the E-comm system in Vancouver took all the available channels.

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    colfireman,

    We are experiencing a similar problem with our system (VHF digital trunked).

    Motorola's solution is to install more towers to simulacast into these areas in increase signal strength. Apparently it can be done as long as the towers are not more than seven miles from each other. It remains to be seen how it will work.

    Stay SAfe
    IACOJ

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    Rayer49: I really can't give you much for SOP's on how to operate a system like that. I don't really know what the intended use for this system is. Is this supposed to be something that everyone uses as their main system or just a interoperability system and you still have your own systems in town.

    rcrompm46 THANK GOD! It would seem those incharge of building that did their homework and didn't skimp on it. 100% is more or less impossible. It sounds like they did the best they could make it do.

    colfireman: Unfortunately you have a text book case there. They skimped and now it is halfassed. In my personal opinion, a radio system is pointless if you damn radios won't function on it. What good is it if you walk in a building and it doesn't work?? There isn't really anything cheap you can do to increase your portable coverage. If your using stubby antennas, put the full-size antennas on them and it MAY help a little bit. Increasing portable coverage will need more sites or more height. Neither are an inexpensive undertaking.

    Simulcasting is an interesting technology. It involves keying up two or more transmitters at once on the same frequency syncronized by GPS time-code. It is used mostly for conventional VHF or UHF systems but I guess it is used in trunking as well. I'm not too up with that part of trunking systems. It does exist and can work though.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    We now operate an 800 system for radio dispatch normal communications. We still have our old high-band VHF system for dispatching to pagers. The radio techs attempted to make it possible to patch the two together... but there was supposedly some sort of compatibility issue between the two repeaters. Once you keyed the mike on the patched signal, the repeaters would not release the signal.

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    Originally posted by cozmosis
    We now operate an 800 system for radio dispatch normal communications. We still have our old high-band VHF system for dispatching to pagers. The radio techs attempted to make it possible to patch the two together... but there was supposedly some sort of compatibility issue between the two repeaters. Once you keyed the mike on the patched signal, the repeaters would not release the signal.
    Not to sound rude, but I would suggest finding a new radio tech to hook up that patch. If they know what they are doing, that will not happen.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    nmfire, I left you another PM. I tried to send you a reply to your email but it keeps getting returned due to a failure.........

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