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Commercial Radios That Do P25 Trunking Without Needing A System Key

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#1
There's a lot of posts about how our digital scanners don't work well on P25 digital audio when there is Linear Simulcast Modulation (LSM). So what about this question. If you want to monitor with a REAL commercial radio like what the cops and firefighters use, how do you do it? Apparently, all the brands have their programming software rigged up to where you need a special encrypted computer file called a system key in order to program a radio to follow P25 trunking. Is there a certain brand that will just be nice and let you program without a key? Like what brand, Kenwood, Tait, Icom, EF Johnson, Harris...?

Is there anyway a hobbyist can buy a commercial radio, the software and programming cable, and get it programmed for monitoring? And how do you make it not auto-affiliate. Every so often, someone will post on here that you can use a commercial radio for P25 instead of the scanners that don't work right. But they never explain the system key problem.
 

Thunderknight

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#2
Most commercial radios require a system key for P25 trunking. The means to obtain one can be legal (prorgrammed by the system owner, like a media radio) or of highly questionable legality.
Older Harris radios did not require a key and can be set to not affiliate easily but it's expensive to get the software unless you know someone who has it.

These days, now a Unication G4 or G5 is a fully legal, no key required, receiver only, way to monitor simulcast P25. Software is free
 
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#3
Yes it can be done. You're not actually on the system when you do this the right way, because you are monitoring the conventional frequencies in scan matched up to the talk groups you want to monitor. The radio will always be in scan so you can't just sit on a tgi. You can lock out talk groups in scan. You can only scan 10 at a time. It's a subject people really wanna stay away from in public forums just to avoid issues. However it is completely legal as long as your radio don't affiliate with the system. I have a few motorola radios I use for this. You can find videos on YouTube that will explain how to do it. The trick is generating a system key but I'm not even gonna touch that conversation........I would not even attempt it if you're not highly experienced with motorola software. You can interfere with a system if you **** up and get your radio bricked. You can also be charged with hacking a radio system. So what I tell people unless you know someone by a scanner and save yourself a headache.
 

Nasby

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#4
Get your credit card out. Commercial grade radios, software, cables, etc. are BIG bucks.
 

Thunderknight

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#5
You don,t need a system key unless you want to use encryption mode and the key is not programmed it is entered in manual either 128 bit or 256 bit the problem is both radios have to have the same key or it won't decrypt the signal. so a lot of operators pre enter the keys into the radio and save them under a memory slot. so the individuals don't have to remember them.
Absolutely incorrect information.
 
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#6
So what brand radio is best, or do they all need a system key? What older Harris radios do this and will they do P25 Phase 2 trunking?

The old syskeygen program from Motorola that got on the internet years ago was for the older 4-digit hex system IDs, but the newer P25 system IDs are a different format and a different number of digits. So how are people doing it? How come you sometimes see posts on here where people say you can program a real radio for monitoring, but they don't answer the system key question?
 

DanRollman

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#7
Most commercial radios require a system key for P25 trunking. The means to obtain one can be legal (prorgrammed by the system owner, like a media radio) or of highly questionable legality.
Older Harris radios did not require a key and can be set to not affiliate easily but it's expensive to get the software unless you know someone who has it.

These days, now a Unication G4 or G5 is a fully legal, no key required, receiver only, way to monitor simulcast P25. Software is free
I second the recommendation for a Unication G5 for a scanner hobbyist who wants to monitor P25 LSM with audio that sounds much better than a consumer-grade scanner.

For even better sound and features, use a Relm KNG. Works and sounds terrific. More expensive than a consumer-grade scanner (and a Unication), but not nearly as expensive as a Motorola radio. Software is not too expensive, can be had by anyone willing to pay for it (no need for special letterhead and crap like that), and has a true "Receive Only" programming mode, where it no longer asks for a system key but allows you to program the radio for no-affiliate Receive Only, in a true trunking configuration where you can sit on a single channel, have scan lists for each channel, etc. (not "scanning from a conventional channel" where you are limited on scan lists, can't sit on a single channel, etc.)

To me, the hierarchy goes like this:

1. Consumer-grade scanners: $$. Does not work or sound good at all on P25 LSM. But software is free and no 'hacks' required in order to get this relatively-poor performance, if you want it.
2. Unication G4/G5 receiver: $$$. Works and sounds better on P25 LSM. But software is free and no 'hacks' required.
3. Relm KNG. $$$$. Works and sounds great on P25 LSM. Software is cheap, and no hacks required.
4. Motorola. $$$$$. Works and sounds great on P25 LSM. Software can be a pain to get, and can only do RX-only with hacks. Wasn't made for it, and it limits your features and memory.
 

DanRollman

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#8
How come you sometimes see posts on here where people say you can program a real radio for monitoring, but they don't answer the system key question?
I don't have any Motorola P25 equipment for that very reason.

See my post above regarding the Relm KNG, which stops asking for a system key once you check the "RX Only" box in the system programming screen. From that point forward, you proceed with the rest of your programming just like normal, except the radio won't attempt to affiliate with the system and the transmit button won't do anything.

It's almost like they designed the radio to be used in "receive only" mode. Because they did! A Relm public safety agency customer asked for the ability to program and monitor neighboring agencies without the need for a system key, and Relm obliged. I'm just a beneficiary of that.

I wish I could have back all the money I spent on various consumer-grade P25 scanners, and all the hours I spent on silly antenna configurations, trying desperately (and ultimately unsuccessfully) to get decent performance on P25 LSM systems before discovering the wonderful Relm KNG. For a time, I resisted because of the cost (new). Now that I've used it for over a year, you couldn't pry my KNG from my hands for twice what I paid for it.
 
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#9
How well do those Unications receive with that short litle antenna, or can it be replaced with something better. And those Relms cost like $3,000 ! Even the Unications are about a grand a pop.
 

Thunderknight

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#10
How well do those Unications receive with that short litle antenna, or can it be replaced with something better. And those Relms cost like $3,000 ! Even the Unications are about a grand a pop.
Yes, the G4/G5 antenna is actually just an SMA connector and can be replaced with a gain whip.
At least in my testing, it receives fine with the supplied stubby (of course these are systems designed for portable use...a wider area mobile only system might not work as well).
 

DanRollman

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#11
How well do those Unications receive with that short litle antenna, or can it be replaced with something better. And those Relms cost like $3,000 ! Even the Unications are about a grand a pop.
No need to pay MSRP on a Relm, but still you're right - they are certainly a lot more expensive than a consumer grade scanner. If the question is where you can get a commercial P25 trunking radio that doesn't require 'hacking' and doesn't cost more than the consumer-grade scanners that don't really work, the answer is "nowhere". See my post above, and the relative $ signs in the "hierarchy".

I have a G5. It works and sounds a lot better than my 436, and not nearly as good as my KNG. So this "digital scanner heirarchy" is one place where quality/performance and price go in precisely the correct direction, each step of the way, and you get what you pay for. I believe my 436, my G5, and my KNG each cost right about what they're worth relative to the other two.

My G5 with its stubby little antenna receives far better than my 436 with any super-dooper antenna I've ever put on it. But still not nearly as well as my KNG.

The short of it is "yes, Virginia, there is a great sounding radio for P25 LSM monitoring that anyone can buy that doesn't require system keys or hacking, doesn't affiliate, and whose software can be obtained without jumping through all sorts of hoops." But no, it isn't "cheap".

Honestly, unless you just have the money to spare, and you really want it all, the G5 is probably the best "value". The performance of the G5 is "good enough," and the cost is only around $400 more than the Unidens and Whistlers that "work ok, some of the time, and pick up some parts of some transmissions here and there, once in a while, so long as I stand just like this - I can usually make out some bits and pieces of what I think they're talking about."
 

willwilliams

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#12
How well do those Unications receive with that short litle antenna, or can it be replaced with something better. And those Relms cost like $3,000 ! Even the Unications are about a grand a pop.

They work great up here on the new 700mhz system in Alberta. However there is a lot of sites and if the pager doesn't lock onto the right one a lot of traffic is missed. And for the VHF its almost better then the ht1250 radios we used before.
 
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#13
Get your credit card out. Commercial grade radios, software, cables, etc. are BIG bucks.
Let's see now...

$500 for a latest Uniden or Whistler that does not work on P25 simulcast for MOST people. Big bucks - Yes (for a radio that is useless on a simulcast system for most people.)

$800-$900 for a Unication that works on P25 simulcast for EVERYBODY with free software and no keys required. Big bucks - Yes (for a radio that works on a simulcast system.)

Which is the better buy?

BTW, what are the "BIG bucks", "software, cables, etc" you refer to? I'm not aware of anything specific needed for simulcast reception in those categories.

Thanks.
 
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#14
Yes, the G4/G5 antenna is actually just an SMA connector and can be replaced with a gain whip.
At least in my testing, it receives fine with the supplied stubby (of course these are systems designed for portable use...a wider area mobile only system might not work as well).
Just keep in mind the external antenna is only for 700/800. VHF only uses internal antenna--even when on the base.

http://forums.radioreference.com/unication-forum/342282-vhf-antenna-g5.html
 
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#15
That KNG looks pretty solid for sure. What is the best means to purchase one?

I second the recommendation for a Unication G5 for a scanner hobbyist who wants to monitor P25 LSM with audio that sounds much better than a consumer-grade scanner.

For even better sound and features, use a Relm KNG. Works and sounds terrific. More expensive than a consumer-grade scanner (and a Unication), but not nearly as expensive as a Motorola radio. Software is not too expensive, can be had by anyone willing to pay for it (no need for special letterhead and crap like that), and has a true "Receive Only" programming mode, where it no longer asks for a system key but allows you to program the radio for no-affiliate Receive Only, in a true trunking configuration where you can sit on a single channel, have scan lists for each channel, etc. (not "scanning from a conventional channel" where you are limited on scan lists, can't sit on a single channel, etc.)

To me, the hierarchy goes like this:

1. Consumer-grade scanners: $$. Does not work or sound good at all on P25 LSM. But software is free and no 'hacks' required in order to get this relatively-poor performance, if you want it.
2. Unication G4/G5 receiver: $$$. Works and sounds better on P25 LSM. But software is free and no 'hacks' required.
3. Relm KNG. $$$$. Works and sounds great on P25 LSM. Software is cheap, and no hacks required.
4. Motorola. $$$$$. Works and sounds great on P25 LSM. Software can be a pain to get, and can only do RX-only with hacks. Wasn't made for it, and it limits your features and memory.
 
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#16
KE4EMQ

Just my two cents i have two 536 one 436 and a home patrol 2 . I also have a take home radio from the F/D where i belong it is a moto 4000 hand held made for there p25 phase 2 700 mg simulcast system. They all are on the same system scanning the same channels more they a few times the one of the scanners goes off but the commerical radio does not.
 

KevinC

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#17
Sorry guys, but I deleted a lot of misinformation and the associated replies.

This is about SYSTEM KEYS and absolutely nothing to do with encryption, so please keep that in mind when replying.
 

Nasby

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#18
Let's see now...

$500 for a latest Uniden or Whistler that does not work on P25 simulcast for MOST people. Big bucks - Yes (for a radio that is useless on a simulcast system for most people.)

$800-$900 for a Unication that works on P25 simulcast for EVERYBODY with free software and no keys required. Big bucks - Yes (for a radio that works on a simulcast system.)

Which is the better buy?

BTW, what are the "BIG bucks", "software, cables, etc" you refer to? I'm not aware of anything specific needed for simulcast reception in those categories.

Thanks.
A commercial grade Motorola with proper flash for Phase 2 digital with Moto software and programming cable is easily over $2k.

For me, that's big bucks.
 

rescue161

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#20
The old syskeygen program from Motorola that got on the internet years ago was for the older 4-digit hex system IDs, but the newer P25 system IDs are a different format and a different number of digits. So how are people doing it? How come you sometimes see posts on here where people say you can program a real radio for monitoring, but they don't answer the system key question?
The old skeygen program makes the new 3-digit keys just fine.
 
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