Any known issues with MPSCS?

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phillydjdan

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Hi, I am a long time scanner/radio guy from the Philly area. I am looking for imput from folks in Michigan regarding any known issues with the MPSCS. Here in PA there are plans in the works to replace thier statewide OpenSky system with a P25 statewide system. The discussion here in PA had me wondering how successful the MPSCS system has been? I was recently out in Detroit for a few days and was monitoring several agencies on the system. My opinion was the system was quite clear and had a good signal. Detroit Fire was receivable down by the airport on a portable radio. So the question is have there been any major issues recently like tower sites going down, controller crashes, etc? All I've been able to find is an article from 2013 about DPD losing comms that sounded more like a dispatch console link issue than a system issue. Thoughts?
 

radioron231

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Hi, I am a long time scanner/radio guy from the Philly area. I am looking for imput from folks in Michigan regarding any known issues with the MPSCS. Here in PA there are plans in the works to replace thier statewide OpenSky system with a P25 statewide system. The discussion here in PA had me wondering how successful the MPSCS system has been? I was recently out in Detroit for a few days and was monitoring several agencies on the system. My opinion was the system was quite clear and had a good signal. Detroit Fire was receivable down by the airport on a portable radio. So the question is have there been any major issues recently like tower sites going down, controller crashes, etc? All I've been able to find is an article from 2013 about DPD losing comms that sounded more like a dispatch console link issue than a system issue. Thoughts?
As far as I know the MPSCS is a great system, largest in the United States. It works very well. I also have used OpenSky and it worked very well too. There are pros and cons to both systems. OpenSky was very reliable. OpenSky does require more towers because it's very similar to a cell system....at least for portable radio coverage. OpenSky uses 4 talk paths per frequency were P25 uses 1 talk paths per frequency but with P25 phase 2 it will be 2 talk paths. The think to remember is the more talk paths per frequency, there will be some loss of range.

The one thing people hate about OpenSky is that scanners can not listen to it. That does not make it a bad system.

Both are great systems.

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phillydjdan

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Well it seems the major failures with OpenSky relate to a subscriber roaming from site to site. It sounds like the Harris equipment has issues with that. The other major hurdle in PA is topography. Very large mountains and valleys and loads of trees. They wanted 800 MHz statewide where thats apparently not practical. At least the new system is proposed to be 700/800 in metro areas and VHF in rural areas. I personally dont let the monitorability sway my preference but I know some do. And I would vebture a guess that PSP units will likely employ encryption on thier channels anyway. But OpenSky in PA has been nothing but problems from the start. $800 million in and still dropped calls al over the state. Seems like it should be better than that for the money they paid.
 

radioron231

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Well it seems the major failures with OpenSky relate to a subscriber roaming from site to site. It sounds like the Harris equipment has issues with that. The other major hurdle in PA is topography. Very large mountains and valleys and loads of trees. They wanted 800 MHz statewide where thats apparently not practical. At least the new system is proposed to be 700/800 in metro areas and VHF in rural areas. I personally dont let the monitorability sway my preference but I know some do. And I would vebture a guess that PSP units will likely employ encryption on thier channels anyway. But OpenSky in PA has been nothing but problems from the start. $800 million in and still dropped calls al over the state. Seems like it should be better than that for the money they paid.
Yeah I can see how the mountains would be an issue for OpenSky. But I think that poses a problem for 700/800 MHz in general. What they need is a trunked VHF system to give more range

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phillydjdan

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And I'm pretty sure thats exactly why they are planning a hybrid VHF and 700/800 system. It makes sense (finally). The other difference now is that the communications systems have been turned over to the state police whereas before some other agency (I think general something or other) had control before. I watched a hearing awhile back where the police guy was testifying in front of state lawmakers and I was quite impressed at how much he knew about radio systems. Most people that sign contracts dont have a clue what P25 and trunking mean.
 

radioron231

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And I'm pretty sure thats exactly why they are planning a hybrid VHF and 700/800 system. It makes sense (finally). The other difference now is that the communications systems have been turned over to the state police whereas before some other agency (I think general something or other) had control before. I watched a hearing awhile back where the police guy was testifying in front of state lawmakers and I was quite impressed at how much he knew about radio systems. Most people that sign contracts dont have a clue what P25 and trunking mean.
Very good point. I hope they get a system that meets their needs, not some sales person

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RayAir

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The MPSCS is a robust system backed up by decent management and support personnel.

From monitoring I do sometimes hear users complain about their radios becoming garbled or showing "CC Scan", but that's mainly when portables come into Oakland County where there are only two towers (Holly and Southfield). Not sure if the Lakeville/Romeo site is in Oakland or Macomb?

There are only a few users in Oakland Co b/c most of that county is on OpenSky.

One problem with the MPSCS (and OpenSky) is there are no good ways to interface the two systems. Both systems claim interoperability but they both fail here in their current state.

State Police (MPSCS) cannot talk to any local agency (OpenSky) efficiently. There is a patch TG, but users on the system are told "it might not work" and "there's no guarantee". Instead OpenSky users are told that they are to switch to 8CALL90 to contact the state police. Okay, that never happened because to use 8CALL90 you have to go through a procedure to reboot your radio into conventional mode, then reboot back to OTP when done.

They did get OpenSky working good, but it took about 8 years and about 40 sites countywide. Not all are large towers. The audio is very good. Still there was an occasional echo on some calls.

During a large scale windstorm certain sites on the MPSCS went down and one county had agencies revert to conventional. OpenSky sites were unaffected. This isn't to say OS is better.

I heard some rumblings that Oakland County may leave OpenSky, but cannot confirm this.
 

drdispatch

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As someone who has experienced the MPSCS as both a scanner listener and a user for over 10 years, I think it is a great system. Sure it has dead spots, glitches, hiccups, etc.; but show me a radio system that operates perfectly 100% of the time. It was the first statewide P25 trunked system in the nation, and is one of the largest (if not THE largest) system of its kind. It was originally managed by the State Police, but they turned it over early on to the Department of Information Technology. They are in the process of wrapping up an upgrade program, replacing all repeaters and controllers. All in all, I like the system and wouldn't go back to our old VHF system for anything.
 

phillydjdan

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Thanks for the input, guys. Ray, we have patch issues out here as well. Our state police uses OpenSky and our local county uses P25 phase II. During a search a PSP chopper was trying to talk through the patch and it was horrible. Most of the transmissions were lost (I assume because both radios involved in the patch have to go through the PTT process and get a talk permit tone before audio is passed). I actually helped them solve that problem within minutes. I texted a dispatcher and said have the PSP switch to PD National and run the patch from there. Sure enough, they switched over and the patch worked much better LOL.
 
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