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is it legal

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clanusb

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is it legal to have a 800mhz radio programmed onto a trunked system to monitor all the fire and police traffic, yet have it disabled to transmit. ive heard that it is possible to turn it into a "scanner" and have it be just fine, because its not transmitting to interfere. after reading some posts on this topic, ive gotten confused. i dont see what the problem could be, as long as its just a "scanner." it would be programmed just like the regular radios, the only thing would be that when the PTT button gets hit, it would give the low "boooop" sound as long as the button is held. thanks for your help.
 

SkipSanders

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IF it actually never transmits, it would be legal (assuming any scanner is legal in your area).

The difficulty is programming it that way. Actual trunking radios are DESIGNED to transmit, every time you change channels (yes, receive only), and under many other circumstances, and unless the person programming it really knows what they are doing, it WILL transmit.

The system will then probably see it transmitting, recognize that it's not a 'legal' user of the system, and attempt to 'kill' your radio over the air so it no longer works at all till it goes to a motorola shop.

Certain trunking systems may be flatly impossible to get a trunking radio to listen to without transmitting on, due to the exact setup.
 

clanusb

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why exactly do they transmit, if its just changing a channel? is it a sort of communication to make sure the channel is active? if it matters it would be the sacramento regional com system (pub safety)
 

CCHLLM

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Remember, trunking systems aren't really designed to accommodate non-affiliated "receive only" radio status. If the system doesn't simulcast a particular talkgroup at all sites, then unless your radio is affiliated with a given site that you can copy, you won't hear the traffic on that talkgroup. Just like your cell phone, the system tracks the status of all the radios affiliated at a given time and logs the info. The mobile/portable transmits to tell the system controller what its channel status is so that the controller knows "where" to poll or look for it if there's a call or a reason to check unit status. Radio status is available to the console operator for unit status/availability/busy/safety reasons. For instance, if Unit 101 calls dispatch and asks where Unit 102 is in the system, the operator can query that unit in the CAD or look at the CAD to see what that unit's channel status is as well as check his MDT status. Sorta like, "101, Unit 102 is currently on OPS 10 with 103 and 106, and the MDT and GPS indicate a traffic stop at XXX and YYY."

If I put my portable on a talkgroup that's used on the other end of the state, my radio and every scanner within receive range of the site I'm affiliated with will be able to hear trunked traffic on that talkgroup coming through the system from the other end of the state. As soon as I change talkgroups, the scanners won't hear the traffic on that talkgroup anymore because there are no longer any local radios affiliated with that talkgroup on the local site, and there's no longer a reason for the local site to be transmitting that talkgroup.

Maybe all that was clearer than mud.
 
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RocketNJ

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Also overlooking the obvious. He'll need access to the system key, which the system manager will not give up.

Buy a scanner. They are easier to program and you can scan more talkgroups. Plus the scanner won't be turned into a paperweight.
 

N4DES

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RocketNJ said:
Also overlooking the obvious. He'll need access to the system key, which the system manager will not give up.
In addition the system key is considered intellectual property and if he is found in possession of it could be charged in some states with a crime.
 

N4DES

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clanusb said:
why exactly do they transmit, if its just changing a channel? is it a sort of communication to make sure the channel is active? if it matters it would be the sacramento regional com system (pub safety)
Even with changing a channel the radio send a handshake to the system to tell it where it is. With some system configurations this is required for proper audio routing.
 

wdatkinson

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Something else to consider is the emergency button. We had an officer on my department that had his radio cloned by a local radio shop (with or without his knowledge is still up in the air, but he's no longer employed with us). The radio shop owner then used his radio template for local security guards so they could hear the police, but only transmit on their simplex/repeater pairs.

He neglected to disable the emergency button, and all of a sudden we have this officer in emergency status from multiple radios. It was a real mess.
 

clanusb

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okay. well thank you for helping clear all that up.

ive just seen and heard of cases where people have done this.
quite frankly scanner coverage here isnt the best at all, it has its moments where its horrible, yet its perfect on the radio, and vice versa.

how come a radio would need a system key, when a scanner doesnt? why couldnt the radio just be set up to act as a scanner. im sorry, im still pretty new to understanding all the fine details of trunking.

the radio "hand shakes" the system... when a scanner just "ease drops"? is that what its getting too?
 

richardc63

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KS4VT said:
Even with changing a channel the radio send a handshake to the system to tell it where it is. With some system configurations this is required for proper audio routing.
And that and the emergency function can seriously impact on the system & its users.

Can I try another way to explain why radios must affiliate? Imagine a network with 20 sites and 2000 users. The whole idea of having a trunking system is to share the available channels among the users that need them. For that to work we cannot afford to have a channel being used on a site where there are no users of that talkgroup. To prevent channels being wasted by unnecessary transmissions, the network controls from which site each talkgroup is broadcast out of- it does that by tracking the movements of the radio through its affiliation (or what you call a handshake).

So when someone uses a radio as a "scanner" they are attracting radio traffic to a site which may not otherwise have broadcast that traffic. If that site is already busy with other radio traffic that "harmless" scanner could cause congestion that may impact on legitimate users of the network. Someone could get hurt or at the least irritated by needless "busies" all because of that one radio. A classic example is someone who goes out into the country with a radio set to a busy city talkgroup. Our country sites may only have 3-4 channels so affiliating to these sites while on a talkgroup running at 80%+ duty cycle can have a very serious impact when local fire+ambulance+police get a real call.

That is a worst case scenario- but it explains why affiliation is a must in a trunking system & why illegally programmed radios aren't harmless but a potentially serious pest.

Regards,


Richard
 

clanusb

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okay. that makes sense.

so what are ways to make a portable/hand held scanner more efficient? changing the antenna is all i can think of. i have the bc246t with the default ant.

i was at a fire station the other day, and i couldnt pick up anything, both on the 800mhz dispatch, and the VHF dispatch. there was an antenna tower, like there is at every station, so i put on the attenuator to see if that made a difference, it didnt. infact it made it worse.
 

obijohn

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wx4cbh said:
Remember, trunking systems aren't really designed to accommodate non-affiliated "receive only" radio status. If the system doesn't simulcast a particular talkgroup at all sites, then unless your radio is affiliated with a given site that you can copy, you won't hear the traffic on that talkgroup. Just like your cell phone, the system tracks the status of all the radios affiliated at a given time and logs the info. The mobile/portable transmits to tell the system controller what its channel status is so that the controller knows "where" to poll or look for it if there's a call or a reason to check unit status. Radio status is available to the console operator for unit status/availability/busy/safety reasons.

If I put my portable on a talkgroup that's used on the other end of the state, my radio and every scanner within receive range of the site I'm affiliated with will be able to hear trunked traffic on that talkgroup coming through the system from the other end of the state.


If your radio system is a "smartzone" system it must affiliate in order to receive the talkgroup you want to hear. If the system is "smartnet" i.e. a local simulcast system,
then most likely setting your radio to not affiliate is OK. If your radio system has a 9600 control channel, all bets are off.

Most modern metropolitan radio systems are by default "smartzone". The trick is in knowing what you are wanting to monitor.

If you don't understand the "syskey" issue, than you really just need to stick with a scanner, which has been previously suggested.

Good luck!
 

jhooten

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It is like the old days with radar detectors.
The police stat useing Xband speed radars. Someone built and marketed an Xband detector.
Some one builds the police a Kband radar unit to defeat the radar detectors. Then the "dual band" radar detectors start showing up.
Then the police radar gets fast on and pulsed technology to defeat the dual band detector. Radar detector technology develops to keep pace.
The the LASER speed guns make their was to the street. LASER detectors are made.
And the technology war continues.

What does this have to do with monitoring a TRS? The salesmen of the day sold the original TRS as being un monitorable because the conversation jumped around. SO, the scanner manufacturers set their data guys down to decode/reverse engineer the control channel. They did and the first trunk tracking scanners were born.
Control channel formats changed (partially to make it harder to scan but mainly to make it harder to add unauthorized users to the system, find them, and nuke'em), scanner engineers went back to work.
Control channel speeds were changed, scanner engineers.......you get the picture

Scanners work without affiliating because they monitor the control channel and go to any live talk group. Radios affiliate so they will stay on the talk group selected by the mode selector and not jump around to random talk groups (one of the many reasons).

Work is being done now on encrypted control channels with rolling code keys. If they get them to work say bye bye to your trunk tracker. All because some hard headed folks refuse to accept the advice to buy a scanner and insist on trying to program rouge radios to systems they are not authorized to be on.
 

GEMOTO

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The whole idea behind trunking systems in any market is not to elude scanner enthusiasts, rather to allow large groups of people to share a limited number of frequencies.

To answer the OP's question, yes, it is illegal. This is because the system key is needed in order to program any Motorola radio to operate on a specific trunking system. The mere possession of the system key is a crime which violates intellectual property laws and the use of it violates computer system access laws. In addition by having a transmitter on a frequency that you are not licensed for, or the permission of the licensee whose frequency the transmitter is on is a violation of FCC rules. You can not put the base side of the control channel in and then put another frequency you may be licensed for as the mobile side because Motorola radios are pre-programmed with a 45MHz split for TX and RX.
 

jhooten

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GEMOTO said:
The whole idea behind trunking systems in any market is not to elude scanner enthusiasts, rather to allow large groups of people to share a limited number of frequencies.
That was the purpose of trunking, to allow many users to share limited spectrum space. BUT, the salesmen sat right in the COP's office and told him "buy our system and the scannerist can no longer monitor you". They were talking about the old analog FM systems not the newer digital. It wasn't true, but the Chiefs ate it up and bought systems that they didn't need just so they could not be monitored.
 

AZScanner

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In short, yes it's legal but only works on older non "zoned" systems where the radios do not need to affiliate to receive instructions on what frequency to tune on what channel. Most systems in use today require this site affiliation to work for the reasons other posters have stated above. These days, a scanner is a far cheaper, simpler and more reliable solution. For $500 I can monitor the same system that the local PD has to purchase $5000 radios for. Plus, if I were to spend the same $5000 on a "real radio" I'd have no way to monitor the system anyway because it would have to "log in" to the TRS in order to work.

-AZ
 

W8RW

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clanusb said:
is it legal to have a 800mhz radio programmed onto a trunked system to monitor all the fire and police traffic, yet have it disabled to transmit. ive heard that it is possible to turn it into a "scanner" and have it be just fine, because its not transmitting to interfere. after reading some posts on this topic, ive gotten confused. i dont see what the problem could be, as long as its just a "scanner." it would be programmed just like the regular radios, the only thing would be that when the PTT button gets hit, it would give the low "boooop" sound as long as the button is held. thanks for your help.
The model that I have is completely legal (at least in Ohio). It is a Radio Shack PRO-96
 

KB9LIQ

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That is what a saleman told a local ambulance service. He said everything is private and nobody can hear you. Somebody took a scanner in a short time after they got the new radios and showed him even his private calls could be monitored. I would have loved to been in that office when they had a talk with the saleman about this private service they sold them on. Sorry to say it was fun to listen in when the bosses were talking on private call thinking nobody could hear
 

richardc63

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jhooten said:
That was the purpose of trunking, to allow many users to share limited spectrum space. BUT, the salesmen sat right in the COP's office and told him "buy our system and the scannerist can no longer monitor you". They were talking about the old analog FM systems not the newer digital. It wasn't true, but the Chiefs ate it up and bought systems that they didn't need just so they could not be monitored.
Jay,

Bollocks. I never heard such rubbish. First, you must think the people choosing the systems are so stupid they can't work out the benefits of trunking without the help of a salesman- that might be the case in your small part of the universe but don't speak as an authority for anywhere else. I know we went trunking because of lack of spectrum & the need to take advantage of the operational benefits that a large trunking system can provide. If you think a few scanner nuts even rate with those benefits than you are deluded. You are pests, nothing more.

Regards,


Richard
 

gcr33

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And in another note, the salesman sold the COP private line so other agencies could not hear him. DUH! He bought it many years ago.
 
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