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Independence, MO Article on new 700MHz P-25

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indepmo

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Listening in will be challenge


By Mike Ekey
The Examiner


There is no doubt that Independence's new 700 MHz system is going to be a great advancement for the police and other city services once it is fully operational.

The new digital system, which will be fully operational in September, will give Independence Police more coverage, a clearer signal and more channels to talk with the growing number of officers that patrol city streets.

There was plenty of praise as Assistant City Manager Larry Kaufman announced to the City Council on June 12 that technicians would begin testing the $10 million system as soon as this week. It was regarded as state of the art when council members heard about how Independence will be able to talk with agencies all over the region in an emergency situation.

Still, as Independence becomes a national leader by installing the first 700 MHz radio system of it kind, the city could be leaving some of the agencies it intended to connect with in the dust as they will continue to operate on older systems.

"We do not want to say that Independence is going to be an island that won't be able to communicate with others, but because the technology is so new other agencies will have to be Project-25 compliant to be a part of the system," said Peter Albera, the manager of Independence's radio system account at Motorola.

Being Project-25 compliant is a technical term that means any radio with that specification can talk to any other radio that is also Project-25 - no matter what frequency the two separate systems operate on.

Currently, not every radio system used by police and fire in the metropolitan area is Project-25 compliant - simply because they are older.

Paul Fahlenkamp, manager of AMR, the company that provides ambulance services to Independence, said his company has already purchased radios that will work with the new system to install in the individual ambulances to talk to Independence police and fire departments, but the AMR dispatch system will continue to work on an older system.

AMR had no plans to update its current system soon. This means ambulances to Independence will essentially have two radios - one to communicate with dispatchers and one to communicate with independence police and fire.

"We don't have an active plan to purchase new ones. One of the main barriers to do that is costs," Fahlenkamp said. The cost depends on the number of radios purchased. Motorola does not sell individual radios or scanners that can use the 700 MHz frequencies. An entire system can cost from the $100,000 up to $1 million or more, depending on the number of radios included.

But, Albera said it was the intention of the federal Department of Homeland Security to make more public agencies follow new regulations as they purchase new radio systems in the future.

The federal government and state Homeland Security Department - as part of the effort to streamline police and fire radio services - last year gave away nearly $5 million in Project-25 compliant radio systems to police and fire department departments in rural Missouri - departments that Albera said would not be able to afford new radios that could connect to systems like Independence's.

The overall goal for the federal government is to have all police, fire and civil defense radio systems connected throughout the country.

Albera could not say when all the cities in the Kansas City area would be full compliant, but until then, they will not be able to communicate with Independence.

Although the new radio system can talk to other radios on different frequencies - such as an 800 MHz system - those radio systems will still need to be Project-25 compliant to communicate with the Independence system. In other words, no matter how new or old, if someone is using a radio system that is not project-25 compliant, Independence's radios cannot talk to them.

Other systems that will no longer be able to hear police and fire radio broadcasts will also be public scanners and radios. Companies that rely on public access to scanners, including The Examiner, will no longer hear police calls as they happen as they usually do.

AMR got around this roadblock by purchasing its own upgraded radios that will pick up Independence's new radio system, but non-government agencies will be left in the dark.

Albera said that he did not know of any manufacturer that currently builds scanners that would be able to follow Independence's new digital frequency. Aside from being technologically impossible right now, Albera said listening in on police calls will be a difficult task even if the technology existed for the public.

"Imagine someone was listening in to our phone call," Albera said in an interview. "We are on a single dedicated line, but imagine how difficult it would be if that person was trying to listen and we kept changing lines every second. That is what this new system is going to be like."

The new radios will operate on a frequency once dedicated to television stations for broadcast. As Congress legislated that television needed to move to a higher digital frequency, public service stations then began to move in.

Independence was lucky in that all the television stations in the area - except for one - have already vacated what will become the new public service radio frequency. Other major cities in the country that are updating their system have to wait until stations there vacate the frequency.

To get access to this frequency as a private individual, Albera said residents would probably have to get permission from the police or city that use the frequency. Even then, police could pick and choose which station the public could listen too.

"We really were thinking more about the public safety when we were looking at this system than we were about people being able to listen in," Independence Police Chief Fred Mills said. The new system will increase the range and clarity of the signal in the city. Currently, police operate on only three channels for the entire department.

Mills added that he does not mind the public listening into police chatter. With the new system, he said, it was more about improving police communication and that there was no intention to shut out the public.

To reach Mike Ekey, e-mail michael.ekey@examiner.net or call 816-350-6324.
 

clayman

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Lees Summit
Albera has either had smoke blown up his butt, or he's clueless. Hats off to Fred Mills, who "does not mind the public listening into police chatter"
 

Thunderbolt

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Bannock County, Idaho's 700 MHz P-25 TRS has been in operation for a few weeks now, but the Louisiana Totally Interoperable Environment (LATIE) has been operational now for several months on the same band, using the same technology. Likewise, the state of Illinois STARCOM-21 has several 700 MHz sites that are active. Someone needs to do their homework first before making any comments.

73's

Ron
 

dentman69

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Aug 27, 2005
Messages
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Location
Odessa Missouri
Independence New Radio System?

Does anyone know if any of the new APCO-25 radios made by Uniden or Radio Shack would be able to receive the 700MHZ range with use of a software (if there is any) that would unlock all bands. So us scanner freaks can continue to listen in and our hobby not die out. Wheres Don Starr when we need him??? HA HA !!! Thanks for any input back!
 

dentman69

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Aug 27, 2005
Messages
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Location
Odessa Missouri
Thanks, I seen the the post (WHICH ONE ?) that the PRO 2096 and the PRO-96 will also with WIN96 software. Does the 396 and 996 need a software to unlock the 700MHZ or will it do it out of the box?
 
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