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Statewide Radio System causing static

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Kevin_N

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2 questions:

Didn't someone from DTRS once say that 800 MHz works better in the mountains than VHF........ha ha..

And, why would Las Animas change over to DTRS if it doesn't cover the county? I'd call that a mistake on their part.
 

Ensnared

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Interesting Article

I really enjoyed reading this article about the Colorado statewide TSY. I know that the FCC has assigned 800 mhz frequencies to this system; however, I have a question.

Wouldn't it be possible to replace 800 mhz with VHF frequencies? I know they have this type of setup in this Texas system: Greater Austin/Travis Regional Radio System (GATRRS) Trunking System, Austin, Texas - Scanner Frequencies

In the GATRRS system, there is a combination of VHF, 700 mhz, and 800 mhz.

So, for the mountain regions in Colorado, why wouldn't it be possible for the 800 mhz frequencies to be replaced with frequencies that would respond better to the terrain?

When I traveled along IH25 through this state, I was amazed at the seamless quality of this system. Yes, it was hard to program, but well worth it.

By comparison, the state of Kansas has a fairly large statewide system as well. However, the terrain seems to be more friendly to 800 mhz transmissions.

Please, keep us posted on their radio status because I find it very interesting to say the least.
 

WX4DFD

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As much as I am old school and don't care for the 800 system for many, many reasons; I'm curious if the troubled areas could interface something such as an ACU-1000 or a SmartBridge on a few of their existing VHF towers, connect them to the 800 system via either a dedicated hardline or microwave point to point to the zone controller and fill in the missing 800 areas with the old, reliable VHF systems. I'm not a system designer, but going off past experience with different systems and interoperability issues in the greater Chicagoland area, this seems like a less costly alternative to complete transition to an 800 system that has its many flaws to begin with. Then, those that use the 800 system would be able to talk to those that don't even if they are standing next to each other.

Granted, for the users of the 800 system to travel into an uncovered area on mutual aid, you would have the reverse problem. Those users would have to switch to the VHF frequency, so someone would still have to carry 2 different radios. But it takes the burden off of the smaller agencies that couldn't afford a trunking portable, let alone several, plus vehicle radios and the such.

Is it possible to install 800 radios set to the statewide or nationwide mutual aid simplex channels on the existing VHF towers, which are then bridged to the appropriate talkgroups used by the 800 user (over a point to point), that are then bridged again to the VHF channels in use? I don't know. I'm sure there would be latency issues, but something is better than nothing!

Under those conditions, you are still spending a lot on bridging equipment, and you would have to multi-bridge, which I would think would lend to some potential equipment failures when needed. But again, something is better than nothing. Again, I'm not a system designer, just tossing ideas around.

Now comes the argument for mobile communications vans with bridging equipment...

Personally, I think those are great, but they also have their flaws. Most of them are not staffed 24/7, so to bring one out requires extensive lead time. In the first crucial minutes of an operation, where intercoordination is needed the most, you don't have them. However, for a multi-agency operation such as a "long lived" wildfire, it may be nice to have that van after a little while.

As far as an immediate solution for the "first five minutes," I'm not sure what to do. Someone got sold down the road on a pile of crap a few years back and now it's starting to rear its ugly head...

Thoughts?
 

greenthumb

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If they were out of range on the trunked system, they should have used simplex 1-5 or any of the 8call/8tac simplex channels that are programmed into each and every one of the radios on the system. They probably would have used FERN or a similar simplex channel if they were on VHF.

The article is most likely a political move to try and increase visibility for their issue hoping that money will follow.
 

WX4DFD

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But you are still dealing with a user of VHF standing next to a user of 800, both on portables, not able to talk to each other even though they are on simplex. They have to be bridged somehow.

The problem with any "changing of the bands" is you will always have interoperability issues. Doesn't matter if it's an agency that uses VHF next to an agency that uses UHF (non-trunking or trunking). From a cost standpoint, it's easier to deal with "same band" compatibility issues than it is different band issues. If the state would have chosen to go with a VHF trunking system, such as WY, any agency that got out of range of the zone controller could switch to a VHF simplex and all is good! (Minus the few agencies, at the time, that were already on an 800 trunking system. For those, you would have bridging issues.) But, the 800/VHF argument wouldn't be AS costly, had a VHF trunking system been implemented rather than the 800. Just food for thought....
 
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greenthumb

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That's an issue, but the focus of the article was on the lack of trunked coverage in the county, which can be remedied as I outlined above. USFS and CSFS both have some number of DTRS radios.
 

WX4DFD

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I see your point, but lets take an LE issues and not a wildfire. The reality is the "first five minutes" of any incident makes or breaks it, whether it is a fast moving wildfire, or the Doughtery Gang shooting at LEs in a high speed chase moving though 800 and VHF areas. If agencies can't talk, there is a problem, period. Political driven or not, it needs to be addressed and fixed. I know I "shoulda coulda" with the state using a VHF instead of 800 system, but the reality is we have what we have. It's a shame, but it's what we have.

How do we fix it now?
 

skot1923

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If they were out of range on the trunked system, they should have used simplex 1-5 or any of the 8call/8tac simplex channels that are programmed into each and every one of the radios on the system. They probably would have used FERN or a similar simplex channel if they were on VHF.

The article is most likely a political move to try and increase visibility for their issue hoping that money will follow.
If a system user is only on DTR and they are out of range, going to simplex is not going to help them talk to their dispatcher on a system Talk Group. Works for tactical situations but you're hosed otherwise. Think of a single resource like a mountain deputy going to a domestic and then needs backup. If no system coverage, he is on his own. This is a very real situation in Boulder County in many of our canyons and why we have not given up on VHF. The cost to add more 7/800 DTR sites is way beyond budgets and where we need to put sites up are covered with red tape from the USFS.

It is not a problem to add VHF to the mix - requires a few VHF pairs since you would need a control channel too but otherwise it is just another channel in the rack, much like mixing 700 and 800 MHz channels as found at Mead. The problem is that the multiband radios are still expensive and quite honestly, suck if you are a command type. You still need two separate radios. The APX7000 is one cool handheld but there are many times that I find I break out the VHF radio and the APX stays on DTR.
 

greenthumb

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The bottom line is that where DTRS (an any other system) is correctly built out, it works great. Holy Cross Energy, Eagle County, Mesa County, Jefferson County and many other mountain jurisdictions use 800 MHz and it works fine. Like any system, it must be designed and built out for the user's needs, otherwise thing won't go so well. I have heard that if you duplicate the VHF sites in a jurisdiction with 800 MHz sites, coverage will be roughly identical when you take the gains an losses of the whole system into account.
 

WX4DFD

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If a system user is only on DTR and they are out of range, going to simplex is not going to help them talk to their dispatcher on a system Talk Group. Works for tactical situations but you're hosed otherwise.
Exactly!

The APX7000 is one cool handheld but there are many times that I find I break out the VHF radio and the APX stays on DTR.
Do you have mobiles like that too, or do you run a mobile on each band?
 

WX4DFD

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The bottom line is that where DTRS (an any other system) is correctly built out, it works great. Holy Cross Energy, Eagle County, Mesa County, Jefferson County and many other mountain jurisdictions use 800 MHz and it works fine. Like any system, it must be designed and built out for the user's needs, otherwise thing won't go so well. I have heard that if you duplicate the VHF sites in a jurisdiction with 800 MHz sites, coverage will be roughly identical when you take the gains an losses of the whole system into account.
$$$! Sure a lot of federal grants were given to become 800 compliant, but even with all that, we are still where we are. I'm not sure where the cost comes in regarding VHF trunking and 800 trunking, I'm sure they are quite similar in price. But it's again not an argument of trunking vs non-trunking, it's a band argument. And no, 800 and VHF are not roughly identical. I've used both in the mountains and VHF (though it does have it's issues, I actually prefer UHF) far out performs 800 and needs less backbone to work.

There's what "should happen" (on paper), and what DOES happen in real life. And in real life, in our terrain, I'm not an 800 fan.
 

04Z1V6

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This is a proven system and work well all over the state, this county that is one of the largest, is also one of the most poor in the state and needs help to finish a proper install of the systems and its equipment.
That is what this is about.
 

WX4DFD

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This is a proven system and work well all over the state
Mostly I agree with you. But in those fringe areas, I really have to disagree. An analyst can take the numbers and say on average the system works, when you figure the gains and losses of the system as a whole. But an end user doesn't give 2 cents about that when he's sitting in a "black hole" needing help. And yes, EVERY system has it's problems. But when you think of money, why why why did we choose something that is so damn expensive!! I was a firefighter in the Chicago area and my dept didn't have the money to outfit everyone with their own radios years back. So, for $300 (at the time) I got my own! Over a grand for a portable???

Now I'm getting carried away, sorry.


this county that is one of the largest, is also one of the most poor in the state and needs help to finish a proper install of the systems and its equipment.
That is what this is about.
You are right. So how do they fix their issue on a dime? Maybe the state should have taken that into account several years ago when they just laid this on everyone. But what is done is done, so the question remains. How do we fix this on a dime?
 

04Z1V6

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I totally agree and I think when a States inters into a contract or agrees to use any system like this it should be part of that contract to have price control guarantees and a not to exceed unit price for programming and expendable equipment such as antennas,cases,etc. If you would like big money extras like encryption and other big money ticket Items then you should pay and the company supplying said items should be able to charge what the market will allow.
What does it cost just for the environmental study of one tower permits and fees, I beat it is at least in the million dollar range.

This is what people are talking about when they say Home Land Security Grants have all dried up, because people have made tons of money off of them and they can't show completion of those contracts. If I as a small company inter into a contract and I can't complete it then I loose that one and most likely my company. If I am a large company like motorola there is little or no repercussions and the law does nothing.

sorry for the rant I do think they should get help by motorola and the state.
 

WX4DFD

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I agree with you, but aside from all that. How do they nip spending on this in the butt and make what they have (and can barely afford) work for now, until comes such a day when a complete buildout is done...if it's done.

They are currently using VHF. So lets take the VHF they have and figure out a way to integrate it to the current 800 system, just for fun, cause I like talking radios. Would a solution like I laid out in my first statement work?

"I'm curious if the troubled areas could interface something such as an ACU-1000 or a SmartBridge on a few of their existing VHF towers, connect them to the 800 system via either a dedicated hardline or microwave point to point to the zone controller and fill in the missing 800 areas with the old, reliable VHF systems. I'm not a system designer, but going off past experience with different systems and interoperability issues in the greater Chicagoland area, this seems like a less costly alternative to complete transition to an 800 system that has its many flaws to begin with. Then, those that use the 800 system would be able to talk to those that don't even if they are standing next to each other.

Granted, for the users of the 800 system to travel into an uncovered area on mutual aid, you would have the reverse problem. Those users would have to switch to the VHF frequency, so someone would still have to carry 2 different radios. But it takes the burden off of the smaller agencies that couldn't afford a trunking portable, let alone several, plus vehicle radios and the such.

Is it possible to install 800 radios set to the statewide or nationwide mutual aid simplex channels on the existing VHF towers, which are then bridged to the appropriate talkgroups used by the 800 user (over a point to point), that are then bridged again to the VHF channels in use? I don't know. I'm sure there would be latency issues, but something is better than nothing!

Under those conditions, you are still spending a lot on bridging equipment, and you would have to multi-bridge, which I would think would lend to some potential equipment failures when needed. But again, something is better than nothing. Again, I'm not a system designer, just tossing ideas around."

If you had select VHF towers equipped with 800 simplex mutual aid transceivers (National/Statewide simplex), and linked them to the zone controller of a close 800 system tower (microwave, trunked linked, hardwire, etc...), then patched that into a talkgroup, would that solve the issue of 800 radios in VHF areas? Likewise, if you had VHF simplex mutual aid channels (National/Statewide) on select 800 system towers (All of this, of course, in the transitional areas between systems) linked to a SmartBridge or ACU-1000 that bridged them over to the 800 simplex channels, that would ultimately be patched to the affected agencies talkgroup; would that solve the VHF in 800 territory problem?

The caveat to this would be the need for a county communications van with a bridge system that could be implemented after the initial response goes out and uses the capabilities of the VHF/800 bridge system that would be in place. Once more agencies start coming together, the need for a bolstered infrastructure would go up, and the comm van could carry the extra traffic the transitional VHF/800 bridge gets saturated with.

My bet would be in the long run, over the years, the agencies that use VHF would still be able to use VHF. Their cost would be lower because they are using "cheaper" technology, and the replacement costs would be lower over time. Problem areas with the VHF could use the "old and outdated" mobile extenders (in-vehicle repeaters) that would fill in problem areas when on portables. Encryption and security is possible even on VHF bands, so the agencies that need it can still use it. It's been several years since I worked in crypto, but I bet if you "kicked" (keyed the encryption) the encryption (as long as the crypto technology is compatible) on both the VHF and 800 radios the same, compatibility across the bands should not be an issue. And then the agencies that need/already have the 800 system would continue to use their system.

A system of compatibility already exists in the Denver Metro area where EDACS and P25 radios can't talk together without a bridge. Can the same concept be used to "cross the bands," so to speak? Boulder County comes to mind, where DTRS talkgroups are patched to VHF.

I'm sure there's more to it that meets the eye, but at least it's an attempt to continue to use what you have and stay within your means if you are a smaller agency.
 
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superfreak

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Mostly I agree with you. But in those fringe areas, I really have to disagree. An analyst can take the numbers and say on average the system works, when you figure the gains and losses of the system as a whole. But an end user doesn't give 2 cents about that when he's sitting in a "black hole" needing help. And yes, EVERY system has it's problems. But when you think of money, why why why did we choose something that is so damn expensive!! I was a firefighter in the Chicago area and my dept didn't have the money to outfit everyone with their own radios years back. So, for $300 (at the time) I got my own! Over a grand for a portable???

Now I'm getting carried away, sorry.




You are right. So how do they fix their issue on a dime? Maybe the state should have taken that into account several years ago when they just laid this on everyone. But what is done is done, so the question remains. How do we fix this on a dime?
The state never forced this on anyone. There is no such thing as 800 Mhz compliant. There are mobiles and portables for 1300 to 2000$. A 100watt VHF kenwood is $1300..

The it is NOT a state system, there are many other owners. Heck there owner's of single sites. And there are owners of zone controllers to.
 

skot1923

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The bottom line is that where DTRS (an any other system) is correctly built out, it works great. Holy Cross Energy, Eagle County, Mesa County, Jefferson County and many other mountain jurisdictions use 800 MHz and it works fine. Like any system, it must be designed and built out for the user's needs, otherwise thing won't go so well. I have heard that if you duplicate the VHF sites in a jurisdiction with 800 MHz sites, coverage will be roughly identical when you take the gains an losses of the whole system into account.
Absolutely correct. Toss enough $$ at any system and you can almost make it perfect. But as we all know, there is not a perfect radio system, period.

As to duplicating VHF and 800 at the same site, yes and no on same coverage. I was involved with some tests that did exactly this and for the most part, 800 and VHF were on par. But in really fringe areas, which can be found in any mountainous terrain, VHF won. Those fringe areas can not be ignored. Most solve those problems by adding another site, which again, costs the taxpayer more money and although many think that it should not be an issue, ask any county sheriff or county commissioner. The federal grants are not free either.

Along the same lines, look at the Mead radio site- 7/800 DTR is black in the upper part of the S. St. Vrain but the VHF analog channels for Boulder County cover the area adequately - same site using state of the art radios running at industry accepted parameters for the bands.

Comparing VHF analog to 800 DTR is like comparing a framing hammer to a rubber mallet. They are both used to beat things into submission but each have strengths and weaknesses. So, IMHO, to compare the two is almost not fair. Both bands and technologies have their place and time. The best radio system for problems as found in Colorado is a system of systems. Use the tool that is appropriate for the job and don't limit your tools to just one hammer when you have more than one job description and working environment.
**
 

WX4DFD

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The state never forced this on anyone. There is no such thing as 800 Mhz compliant. There are mobiles and portables for 1300 to 2000$. A 100watt VHF kenwood is $1300..

The it is NOT a state system, there are many other owners. Heck there owner's of single sites. And there are owners of zone controllers to.
You are absolutely correct, and maybe compliant was a poor choice of words. CCNC is totally private owned and you are right about private owers of tower/sites too. I guess a better way of putting it would have been "maybe the group responsible for swaying the state agencies to switch to a system loaded with compatibility issues should have thought about the ramifications of such before selling everyone down the road with it."

I'm not saying trunking is bad. I fully believe in trunking, when used approprately and as a system that fits the users needs, as Skot was saying. (Think about old twisted pair phone lines strung across the country and the fiber optic move to reduce resources. Trunking backbones were used to reduce "single user" lines and make their systems more affordable and still pass the same amount of traffic as before. No different than using less frequencies in a busy metro area to transmit the same amount of traffic, or a backbone link between remote sites, such as a trunking system.) I just wonder in my mind what was used to sell everyone on such an expensivse system that still years after installation have issues that will still cost millions to correct.

I like the "comparing a framing hammer to a rubber mallet" analogy. That's exactly it! Was this system needed (did it need to be sold to) agencies that had no issues with what they had at the time? Now that we are facing compatibility issues, and have been for a long time, what is going to be done to fix it? Could such issues have been looked at years ago and work arounds been put into place so over a decade later we aren't coming upon articles like this? As an end user, it gets frustrating having to deal with poorly thought out politics over and over.

And you are correct about mobiles costing that much. But you are comparing apples to oranges. Sure mobiles cost more than portables, that's the nature of the beast. What does a DTR mobile cost compared to a non, compared to a non DTR portable vs a DTR portable? Then take those numbers and put them in a budget (i.e. several radios if not hundreds depending on the agency) and tell me there isn't a SIGNIFICANT difference when you're a small agency with a limited budget. Heck, even when you're a big agency with no wiggle room in your budget. Use what you can afford, and in some areas that can be a $300 portable that works well, not a over $1000 for one. It sounds to me like these agencies are asking for help and screaming bloody murder at the cost of the equipment. And either you "get on board" or get left behind. Meaning continue down the incompatible road you're on, which creates a LOT of problems as responders, or shell out the money to run with the "big dogs."

Skot said it best, use the tools that best suit your needs. And as obvious, that's not what has happened here by spreading it out into areas it has caused more harm than good in.

Illinois's statewide MABAS system comes to mind as a well thought out plan.
Welcome To MABAS
 
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