Getting back into the hobby - Scanner suggestion for Fort Worth area

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zerMATT

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I haven’t done much scanning since Fort Worth went digital, and I’m looking at getting back into the hobby. I live in Crowley now, and I would like to be able to listen to the Fort Worth regional radio system to tune in the cities & counties it covers. My primary interest areas include Fort Worth fire & medstar, TCSO (patrol & courthouse), Crowley, Burleson, Cleburne, JoCo, and possibly a some Arlington/Kennedale/Mansfield. I’ve been reading about the regional radio system on RadioReference.com and other sites, so I’m aware that I need a scanner that is capable of P25 phase II, and that I won’t be able to listen to anything that’s encrypted.

So here’s my question: I've had Uniden scanners in the past, so I’m looking at the BCD536HP, BCD996P2, and the SDS200. The BCD996P2 is the lowest-cost option at the moment, so I’m leaning toward that scanner. Considering my needs, would the 996P2 be a good decision, or should I look at one of the other two for any specific reasons?

On a related note, and as I learn how this complex radio system works… as a for-instance, since I live in Crowley (south edge at the Burleson / JoCo line), would I program my scanner to connect to the SW JoCo simulcast “site” and be able to hear all of the cities mentioned above, or are only certain nearby cities/county talk groups available on that site?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Matt P.
 

zerMATT

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I am now educating myself on the topic of Simulcast Distortion. Does my location in the overlap of the Fort Worth and Johnson County transmitters put me in a prime spot for this issue? I'm nearly equidistant from both locations according to this map.

Fort Worth Antenna Locations.png
 

hiegtx

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I haven’t done much scanning since Fort Worth went digital, and I’m looking at getting back into the hobby. I live in Crowley now, and I would like to be able to listen to the Fort Worth regional radio system to tune in the cities & counties it covers. My primary interest areas include Fort Worth fire & medstar, TCSO (patrol & courthouse), Crowley, Burleson, Cleburne, JoCo, and possibly a some Arlington/Kennedale/Mansfield. I’ve been reading about the regional radio system on RadioReference.com and other sites, so I’m aware that I need a scanner that is capable of P25 phase II, and that I won’t be able to listen to anything that’s encrypted.

So here’s my question: I've had Uniden scanners in the past, so I’m looking at the BCD536HP, BCD996P2, and the SDS200. The BCD996P2 is the lowest-cost option at the moment, so I’m leaning toward that scanner. Considering my needs, would the 996P2 be a good decision, or should I look at one of the other two for any specific reasons?

On a related note, and as I learn how this complex radio system works… as a for-instance, since I live in Crowley (south edge at the Burleson / JoCo line), would I program my scanner to connect to the SW JoCo simulcast “site” and be able to hear all of the cities mentioned above, or are only certain nearby cities/county talk groups available on that site?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Matt P.
Welcome to RadioReference, Matt

If you skim through posts here in the Texas Forum, as well as take a peak at the DFWScan Yahoo group, you'll see a lot of comments from people having trouble monitoring Layer 2 on FWRRS. Layer 2 has FtW Fire, MedStar, Tarrant County S.O., and many of the smaller cities. Some of the problems with Layer 2 appear to be from poor signal strength. However, depending on your location, you possibly could also have issues from Simulcast Distortion. Hopefully, someone else in or near Crowley can speak up as to whether that affects them or not. If it is a problem, then the SDS200 would be your best scanner choice, followed by the 536HP and 996P2, in that order of preference. The 996P2 is a good scanner, but if there are any simulcast issues in your area, the other two scanners would be a better selection.

From your location, you should be able to hear most of what you list. From Crowley, you may be at the fringe of radio coverage for Arlington & Mansfield. Arlington PD is, as you can see on the FWRRS system page, is encrypted. There have been comments that Arlington intended to also switch their Fire Dept. talkgroups to encrypted, but the database does not indicate that has happened as yet. (If it has, then no one has submitted updated information to the database.) Kennedale is on the Tarrant County layers; off hand, I don't know if they are on Layer 1 or Layer two, but you should be able to hear them either way. I believe that Crowley is also on the Tarrant County sites. Burleson is on the Johnson County side, as is Cleburne. For those, just program the Johnson County Simulcast site. One site for that is in the Crowley area.
1562181019535.png

You would not need to program the separate SW Johnson County site; that's a fill in for better coverage in the southwest corner of the county; everything that would be on that site would also be on the main JoCo Simulcast layer.

Besides what you already listed, you should also be able to hear the Parker County P25 system, Hood County, and possibly the Midlothian/Ellis County layer on FWRRShttps://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?ctid=2633. The Midlothian site is located on a high spot, with good coverage. If you also would like to monitor the various air medical services in the area, see this database page. Besides the conventional frequencies shown on that page, CareFlite uses the Megahertz trunked system for dispatch. They have six copters in the extended metro area, including Ft. Worth, Granbury, & Whitney. All of those can be heard the trunked system, but you would need the DMR upgrade to monitor.
 

KevinC

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Not much help, but I've been through the area (35w from the split in Hill County up to and out 287) several times the last couple of weeks and the SDS100 has performed great. This was using a rubber duck inside the vehicle monitoring mainly the Johnson County simulcast and Layer 1/2.
 

willdanl

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I lived just north of where you are near the intersection of Hulen and Risinger in SW Fort Worth. My BCD436 performed poorly on the whole system (mainly layer 2 and Johnson Co) both while at home and mobile. I bought a unication g5 and was very happy with it. I’ve since been back to visit and my SDS100 performs very well. My guess is that simulcast will be an issue where you are located.

Crowley started off on layer 1, but switched to the Johnson site (site 4) before I moved away.

The key with the uniden scanners on the FWRRS is to program each site/layer as its own system with the talkgroups they carry - the interop stuff is (or used to be) carried on all sites/layers.

Hope this helps.
 

hiegtx

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I am now educating myself on the topic of Simulcast Distortion. Does my location in the overlap of the Fort Worth and Johnson County transmitters put me in a prime spot for this issue? I'm nearly equidistant from both locations according to this map.

View attachment 72891
No. The fact that the signal coverage in your area, for the Fort Worth sites (layers 1 & 2) and Johnson County overlap, has nothing to do with whether or not you have an issue with Simulcast. The Ft Worth/Tarrant County sites use different radio frequencies than Johnson County, and they also carry a different set of talkgroups, so there is no overlap of the exact same transmissions.

Look at the map screenshot I entered earlier, in Post #5. That's a map of the transmit sites in use by the Johnson County simulcast layer. You have one site near you, in Crowley. The other two sites are in Alvarado & Cleburne. (The Southwest Johnson County site, which also shows on that map has no effect, as it uses a different set of frequencies. It's on layer 1-09). For layer 4, Johnson County Simulcast, you possibly could have an issue. You are close to the Crowley site. Possibly (there's no way to tell for sure, without trying a scanner at or near your location) the signal strength of the Crowley site will be enough to make the whatever scanner you choose ignore the Cleburne & Alvarado sites. For a simulcast system, you have two or more transmit sites, transmitting the exact same voice channel signals, at the same exact time. Where that affects a scanner is that the signals from the more distant sites arrive at your location after the signal from the site close to you. That time difference, same transmission, just slightly delayed, can be enough to prevent a scanner from successfully decoding the transmission. If the Crowley signal is strong enough, it might wash out the other two sites, and you'd have no problem. But if that is not the case, then it might prevent you from hearing some, or all, of the transmissions taking place.

Simulcast can be unpredictable. Sometimes, just moving your scanner, and or antenna, a few feet in one direction or another, will mitigate the problem enough for decent reception. In some cases, using attenuation, or less of an antenna (such as a paper clip) may work. In other cases, you might be able to deal with the problem by using a directional antenna, aimed at one specific site. A couple months back, I corresponded quite a bit with another member, who is in Grandview (that's down in the far southeast corner of Johnson County). In his case, he was roughly the same distance from the Cleburne and Alvarado sites. What caused a problem for him was that the Crowley site, which was much farther away, was in roughly the same direction as the Cleburne tower. The Crowley site's transmissions arrived at his scanner after the same ones from Cleburne (and Alvarado). causing him to miss much of what he wanted to hear. We ended up trying a home brew solution, using a metal baking pan to shield his scanner (TRX-2) from both the Cleburne & Crowley site, but with a clear shot to Alvarado. That allowed monitoring of Johnson County to work. However, that also shielded him from much of the Tarrant County layers (1 & 2). He ended up selling the TRX-2, and instead got the SDS200, which allows monitoring what is of interest without having to experiment with antennas. Read the Simulcast article in the Wiki for a more complete explanation of Simulcast.
 

zerMATT

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Thanks for the replies guys, I am learning a lot!

Look at the map screenshot I entered earlier, in Post #5. That's a map of the transmit sites in use by the Johnson County simulcast layer. You have one site near you, in Crowley. The other two sites are in Alvarado & Cleburne. (The Southwest Johnson County site, which also shows on that map has no effect, as it uses a different set of frequencies. It's on layer 1-09). For layer 4, Johnson County Simulcast, you possibly could have an issue.
Can you share the link to this map? I thought I was seeing transmitter sites with the map I found, but after seeing the one you posted, I can see now that the map I got is only for reference of where the focus cities are, not where the actual layer broadcast sites are.
 

nd5y

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Can you share the link to this map?
For any trunked system in the database there is a line just above the table of system frequencies that says:
Red (c) are primary control channels | Blue (a) are alternate control channels | Site Map(s): FCC Callsigns RR Locations
Click on FCC Callsigns. That links to a map of each FCC license that was entered for the system.

The FWRRS database entry has all the FCC licenses entered properly so that map is good. On some other systems in the database that may not be true.
 

zerMATT

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Looks like I'll be going with the SDS100 to get started. I was initially thinking that I wanted a base unit, but since the SDS100 can do pretty much anything, I'm sure I'll want portability soon enough.

Thanks for all of the great advice and information to help make my decision. I'm already finding many great topics to read in this forum and others on RadioReference, so I'm glad to be part of the community.

Finally, if anyone in the southern Tarrant or northern Johnson counties area with an SDS100 or 200 has any radio-specific suggestions for me, please drop me a note. I have a feel for how I'd like to setup the scanner, but I'm open to suggestions from others who are already doing it.
 

hiegtx

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Thanks for the replies guys, I am learning a lot!



Can you share the link to this map? I thought I was seeing transmitter sites with the map I found, but after seeing the one you posted, I can see now that the map I got is only for reference of where the focus cities are, not where the actual layer broadcast sites are.
The FCC Callsigns map that Tom linked shows the licensed locations for the system. That includes the repeater sites as well as fixed (control) sites.

The map I linked shows the transmit locations for the Johnson County simulcast layer.
Go to the FWRRS system in the database.
Click on Johnson County Simulcast.
1562256121664.png

That gets you to a page showing the frequencies for the simulcast site, the range as in the database, and a map showing the estimated coverage area.
1562256354559.png
Look at the line that has Site FCC Licenses. See the small icon near the end of that line, near the lower left corner of map? (I highlighted it above). Click on that.
This takes you to the map I included in post #5. Here it is again:
1562256546683.png
 

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KI5IRE

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For monitoring just Johnson County, Crowley and Burleson, you would probably be fine with the BCD996P2. I used to work right off of Renfro and I-35 in Downtown Burleson and brought my BCD436 to work with me everyday and took it to lunch with me as well. I very rarely had any issues with simulcast distortion on the Johnson County and SW Johnson County site when in my office or mobile when driving around in Burleson or further into Johnson County area (usually out near Joshua/Godley area).

For Fort Worth Layer 1/Layer 2, you're going to want something like the SDS100/200 that is designed to handle simulcast systems better than other scanners on the market.

I live in NE Tarrant County and have issues monitoring anything on Layer 1/Layer 2 on anything but my SDS100. Arlington site does not seem to have many issues with simulcast distortion.

I can pick up the Parker County P25 system in NE Tarrant County, so you should be able to pick that up down where you are. They don't seem to have any issues with simulcast on that system from afar.

In terms of Phase 2, I don't believe I've seen much, if any Phase II activity on Layer 1/Layer 2, NE Tarrant, Johnson County/SW Johnson County, Mansfield, TMS sites on the Fort Worth Regional Radio system. Seems to be limited to the Arlington, Grand Prairie, Irving and Midlothian sites. I have also not seen any on the Parker County P25 system either.
 

Linn

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I haven’t done much scanning since Fort Worth went digital, and I’m looking at getting back into the hobby. I live in Crowley now, and I would like to be able to listen to the Fort Worth regional radio system to tune in the cities & counties it covers. My primary interest areas include Fort Worth fire & medstar, TCSO (patrol & courthouse), Crowley, Burleson, Cleburne, JoCo, and possibly a some Arlington/Kennedale/Mansfield. I’ve been reading about the regional radio system on RadioReference.com and other sites, so I’m aware that I need a scanner that is capable of P25 phase II, and that I won’t be able to listen to anything that’s encrypted.

So here’s my question: I've had Uniden scanners in the past, so I’m looking at the BCD536HP, BCD996P2, and the SDS200. The BCD996P2 is the lowest-cost option at the moment, so I’m leaning toward that scanner. Considering my needs, would the 996P2 be a good decision, or should I look at one of the other two for any specific reasons?

On a related note, and as I learn how this complex radio system works… as a for-instance, since I live in Crowley (south edge at the Burleson / JoCo line), would I program my scanner to connect to the SW JoCo simulcast “site” and be able to hear all of the cities mentioned above, or are only certain nearby cities/county talk groups available on that site?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Matt P.
Hi Matt,

Most of your questions have been answered, but but based on your post I live in the same general area as you. I don't have any problems listening to the Johnson County layer on my scanners. My SDS200 outperforms my other scanners when it comes to listening to the other layers and is pretty reliable for listening to Fort Worth Fire.

If you are hoping to listen to law enforcement on the Johnson County layer, it will be going encrypted in the very near future.

Linn
 

zerMATT

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Hi Matt,

Most of your questions have been answered, but but based on your post I live in the same general area as you. I don't have any problems listening to the Johnson County layer on my scanners. My SDS200 outperforms my other scanners when it comes to listening to the other layers and is pretty reliable for listening to Fort Worth Fire.

If you are hoping to listen to law enforcement on the Johnson County layer, it will be going encrypted in the very near future.

Linn
Linn, thanks for that confirmation - I'm glad to hear that I didn't over-spend in ordering the SDS100 (that arrives tomorrow) to ensure that I can listen to the local stuff as well as Fort Worth layers 1 & 2. And yes, I was sorta hoping to be able to catch some Crowley and Burleson PD traffic, but I understand their desire for encryption. Hopefully I'll get to listen for a bit before it goes away. Other than that, my primary interest is FD/EMS, and other interesting items that I'm sure I'll stumble across. We are also very close to the BNSF track in Crowley, so I may see if I can pick up any rail traffic too - I've never done that before.

I do have a few scanners leftover from when I used to listen in Arlington, and I plan to set those up to monitor VHF & UHF in the area. I'll brush the dust off my old BC780XLT to see what I can do. Besides that one, I've got an antique Pro-34 that I've had since the late 80's, and a Pro-95 Dual Trunking that I picked up around when Arlington first went trunked. I've also got a BCT7 kicking around, but I don't imagine I'll use that for much unless I get really bored ;-).

If you have any other tips to share about scanning in the Southern Tarrant County or Northern Johnson County areas, I'm all ears!
 

zerMATT

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No. The fact that the signal coverage in your area, for the Fort Worth sites (layers 1 & 2) and Johnson County overlap, has nothing to do with whether or not you have an issue with Simulcast. The Ft Worth/Tarrant County sites use different radio frequencies than Johnson County, and they also carry a different set of talkgroups, so there is no overlap of the exact same transmissions....
The FCC Callsigns map that Tom linked shows the licensed locations for the system. That includes the repeater sites as well as fixed (control) sites. The map I linked shows the transmit locations for the Johnson County simulcast layer. Go to the FWRRS system in the database. Click on Johnson County Simulcast....
Steve, thanks for all of that information - you are helping me to get up to speed quickly. I'm reading as much as I can and following links to new information... now I remember why I enjoyed this hobby so much in the first place!
 

hiegtx

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From your location, you should have a number of listening choices, including the adjoining counties.
Your BC780XLT would be good to devote to aircraft, including milair from units assigned to JRB Carswell.
 

zerMATT

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Correction post removed... what I thought said HLT on the front of the 780 is actually XLT. I'd delete this reply, but I don't see a delete button ;)
 
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