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San Francisco Bay Area Discussion - Local area specific discussion for the San Francisco Bay area including the North, East and South Bays.

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 08-11-2009, 1:32 AM
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Default ALCO Trunked / Bay Area Moto System is Garbage

Anyone else notice the the plague of problems with the ALCO / Motorola Trunked system in the Northern California area???
I have been listening to things get progressively worse in recent months, I cannot believe how bad it is.
We're talking multi agency wide problems with the trunked radio system.

Its getting bad to the point its endangering lives.
For instance today I heard a 211 armed robbery with a gun, dispatch is trying desperately to communicate with units on scene but all they get is open carrier/no audio.
The responding units cannot talk to/hear each other & in meantime the suspect gets away as they decided to call it off for officer safety (since they could not talk to one another).
This is like 2nd time I hear this type of situation in recent weeks.

The other day I also heard a FD plead for a PD response/assist but Dispatch could not copy, obviously they were able to contact via cellphone for backup, but still, seconds can mean lives in these situations.

I've heard similar problems in at least 3 cities on this same trunked system.
Anyone else monitor Alco & notice this type of problem?

What the hell, did the county lay off the Radio Service dept or something?
I've never heard it this bad.

Really put into perspective how important it is to have a reliable radio system!!!

These guys may as well pick up some FRS radios at WalMart!
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Old 08-11-2009, 4:22 AM
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I know exactly what you mean. A friend of mine who's an ALCO LE user has personally verified that their radios sound like absolute garbage.

I've heard all the crackling and popping in the background is due to the simulcasting transmissions overlapping. What I want to know is how do they expect to switch to digital P25 trunking for the proposed East Bay RCS - digital being extremely temperamental with any overlapping simulcasting - with things being as they are now? I have monitored plenty of well engineered multi-site simulcasting 800 MHz Motorola Type II analog systems before ("San Diego, City of" being a favorite), so the problem seems to lie on the people involved in either the initial design or the maintenance who seem to be "letting things go."

It could be a funding issue, or somebody at private contractor radio service company getting rich by "saying" they did the work.

In any case, it sounds like things are unacceptably bad over there and they need to do something about it before someone gets hurt. And "do something" means repair, align and take responsibility for all the existing equipment, NOT con the general public into spending millions of dollars going to a new digital system.

/Rant

Last edited by inigo88; 08-11-2009 at 4:28 AM..
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Old 08-11-2009, 7:29 AM
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Originally Posted by inigo88 View Post
. . . .What I want to know is how do they expect to switch to digital P25 trunking for the proposed East Bay RCS - digital being extremely temperamental with any overlapping simulcasting - with things being as they are now? . . .
Wouldn't the new system take advantage of newer timing equipment (and maybe new site locations) that would take care of this problem?
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Old 08-11-2009, 2:47 PM
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I would think that they would keep the sites they have now and add more. They might be holding off on doing any big repairs while waiting on the new system to get online. It is the lets hope it lasts or run it tell it breaks.
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Old 08-11-2009, 2:57 PM
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Either way, the experience with Analog probably does not relate to what they can expect with digital.
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Old 08-11-2009, 5:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inigo88 View Post
I know exactly what you mean. A friend of mine who's an ALCO LE user has personally verified that their radios sound like absolute garbage.

I've heard all the crackling and popping in the background is due to the simulcasting transmissions overlapping. What I want to know is how do they expect to switch to digital P25 trunking for the proposed East Bay RCS - digital being extremely temperamental with any overlapping simulcasting - with things being as they are now? I have monitored plenty of well engineered multi-site simulcasting 800 MHz Motorola Type II analog systems before ("San Diego, City of" being a favorite), so the problem seems to lie on the people involved in either the initial design or the maintenance who seem to be "letting things go."

It could be a funding issue, or somebody at private contractor radio service company getting rich by "saying" they did the work.

In any case, it sounds like things are unacceptably bad over there and they need to do something about it before someone gets hurt. And "do something" means repair, align and take responsibility for all the existing equipment, NOT con the general public into spending millions of dollars going to a new digital system.

/Rant
You forgot to mention that the Alameda county sheriff uses a Motorola Type II Smartnet TRS and the Oakland police are using a GE EDACS system. What's up with this sheer stupidity. There goes your interopability features right down the crapper, without having to install an other link to a third system, or installing a second entire radio in their units.

The Redwood city police chief was on KTVU several months ago. He gave them an earful about crackling noises, dead carriers and pile ups. They went back to using their 488 mhz analog repeaters before somebody got hurt or killed.

And P-25 digital just plain sucks.

It sounds like these radio systems were built by beauracrats who don't have much regard for the public safety either. Thanks for nothing. I enjoy living in a smaller town, where most emergency traffic is handled with regular analog VHF/UHF repeaters...
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Old 08-11-2009, 6:02 PM
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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
You forgot to mention that the Alameda county sheriff uses a Motorola Type II Smartnet TRS and the Oakland police are using a GE EDACS system. What's up with this sheer stupidity. There goes your interopability features right down the crapper, without having to install an other link to a third system, or installing a second entire radio in their units.
Probably some history there.
They might have gone in at different times.(Probably in the days before "Interoperability" was the word.)

Very often cities and counties operate completely separately. Often with much more animosity than needed.

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
The Redwood city police chief was on KTVU several months ago. He gave them an earful about crackling noises, dead carriers and pile ups. They went back to using their 488 mhz analog repeaters before somebody got hurt or killed....
Redwood is NOT in Alameada County.

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And P-25 digital just plain sucks...
Thanks for your opinion.

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
It sounds like these radio systems were built by beauracrats who don't have much regard for the public safety either...
Sometimes happens that way. More often it just looks that way to an outsider.

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
I enjoy living in a smaller town, where most emergency traffic is handled with regular analog VHF/UHF repeaters...
For now.
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Old 08-12-2009, 1:39 AM
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Hey N_Jay, I have a feeling we're going to agree to disagree.

In my opinion they could save considerable money by repairing or replacing existing sites and creating more to FILL-IN the dead spots instead of starting from scratch.

Quote:
Thanks for your opinion.
My county uses our P16 Type II Smartzone with C4FM IMBE digital for fireground tactical communications, and some friends of mine in the fire service here have put it much more bluntly. If you don an SCBA mask and try and speak through your mask mic inside a structure fire, most of the time it's completely inaudible. If there's regular fireground background noise, like chainsaws, water flowing, glass breaking, etc, the transmission becomes inaudible. The vocoder was simply not designed to handle those types of noise, which is fine if you're providing a cell phone service (considering how low our consumer expectations are for cell phone performance), but is completely un-acceptable for public safety use. I've heard the P25 Phase II TDMA vocoder will be so much better. Whoop-de-do.

But dealing with this radio system from multiple perspectives, and knowing multiple users whose lives can and have been endangered when their radios failed to work in routine situations where they had a reasonable expectation for them to work has made this a very personal issue for me - and I'm convinced that it is unacceptable to count on vocoder software to successfully error-correct and decode messages of life-or-death significance - and thus that the pros of using digital modulation in public safety do not outweigh the risks.

I think we're hijacking this particular thread so we could continue in another or via PM if you wish.

On topic, given that the majority of ALCO TRS users are public safety, I seriously hope they work out the current problems SOON. I think the "running it into the ground" method while they wait for work to progress on the new system is not an acceptable option.

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For now.
Cue scary music!
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Old 08-12-2009, 3:25 AM
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From what I've read, the P25 plan involves Contra Costa as well as Alco, and a number of new sites. Oakland has a 3 channel P25 trunking site up for testing, and Alco is supposed to add P25 to the San Leandro site next year. Right now, there are a whole bunch of new microwave links going in at all the PD's and county sites, so it seems more likely that City A or the county will be able to patch City B into their system temporarily when interop is needed. This is what Santa Clara Co. does sometimes, and avoids frequency and proprietary format problems. Rebanding is probably next up on the engineering task list however.

As far as Oakland / EDACS goes, that's turning out to be a major windfall. Oakland bought their system around 1994, and the radios and system are so old that 90% of their equipment can't be rebanded. Sprint is paying about $10 million to buy new radios and infrastructure, Oakland kicks in a million or two, and they get completely new P25 700/800 gear citywide plus 2 new sites.
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Old 08-12-2009, 7:46 AM
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http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfi...RICS_FINAL.pdf

Enjoy!
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Old 08-12-2009, 4:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N_Jay View Post
Redwood is NOT in Alameada County.
I know. The police chief was pointing out the problems with P-25 digital radios in general. He hates them and I can't blame him either. It sounds like the same story across the bay.

Many of these digital systems sound just like a cheap SSB CB radio with a locked TX clarifier. Ever try getting more than two parties on the same frequency? Good luck.

Cities and counties that waste tax payers' $$$ on P-25 digital radios are just like those morons, who pay 99 cents for compressed (MP-3, WMA and Apple AAC-4) music downloads which are inferior to the original WAV files on a commercial CD-R...
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Old 08-12-2009, 5:02 PM
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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
I know. The police chief was pointing out the problems with P-25 digital radios in general.
Maybe that is his opinion, but there are many that are very satisfied.
You can find examples of good and bad;
analog,
pre-p25 digital,
p25 digital,
and just about every other technology system.

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He hates them .
Good for him. Many other don't agree.

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
It sounds like the same story across the bay.
If you say so. (but all indications are the current systems in planning are going to be P25)

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
Many of these digital systems sound just like a cheap SSB CB radio with a locked TX clarifier.
You must be listening to some very poorly designed or maintained systems.

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Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
Ever try getting more than two parties on the same frequency? Good luck.
Hu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cousinkix1953 View Post
Cities and counties that waste tax payers' $$$ on P-25 digital radios are just like those morons, who pay 99 cents for compressed (MP-3, WMA and Apple AAC-4) music downloads which are inferior to the original WAV files on a commercial CD-R...
If you say so.
However I know many people who really know what is going on, and take very seriously their responsibility to provide the best system at the best price, who have implemented, are implementing and are planning P25 systems.

Maybe you should start selling super-duper analog systems put your outstanding knowledge to good use.
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Old 08-12-2009, 5:46 PM
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Here in SD county we have a mixed Type II Smartzone system. The police use digital and the FDs use analog primarily with some digital TAC channels. The digital audio from the PDs is pretty good unless the unit is in a noisy/windy environment. The FDs occasionally use the digital TACs for drills and the audio gets really bad when the masks go on. The beepers on the FFs takes its toll on the audio as well.
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Old 08-13-2009, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rfmonger View Post
Anyone else notice the the plague of problems with the ALCO / Motorola Trunked system in the Northern California area???
This is typically what happens with a system over a decade old. The system is maxed out for the amount of simulcast sites available to it. Also, when dealing with a simulcast system covering a large area it takes a lot to keep the phasing in shape. It's not just something you PM once a year and leave it be. Anyone who has worked with maintaining anything controlled by a clock - or kept in sync - knows that the equipment is very finicky, especially the old stuff like they're using.

And I don't want to see this thread turn in to another analog versus digital war. It's not what this thread is about so go argue it in GenScan.
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