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Motorola APX8000

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DisasterGuy

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I have to disagree, there are cases where agencywide multiband deployments are a practical answer for those reasons mentioned already involving hybrid systems as well as for areas responding into neighboring jurisdictions that use another band. There are many limitations to audio patches and they are of no use when you leave your home coverage area.
 

sfd119

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Just like the two users above here said nobody needs to deploy a field of APX 7000 or 8000 series radios.
Sure they do. I'll take my State for instance. Do you know who provides ambulance coverage to Duluth, MN and Superior, WI? Gold Cross. Wisconsin has the VHF P25 Trunking System called WISCOM, and Minnesota has the 800MHZ P25 Trunking System called ARMER. Gold Cross Ambos go back and forth across State lines multiple times in an hour. Oh and Gold Cross doesn't just cover the two Cities, they also go 30 miles south of Superior, and also intercepts with Bayfield, Washburn, and other Counties in Wisconsin and I'm sure the same in Minnesota.

So now what do you do? You can't give them only an 800mhz radio and rely on patching...wouldn't work for those Wisconsin trips. You can't give them only a VHF radio and rely on patching...wouldn't work for those Minnesota trips.

The APX accomplishes this. Now you have an Ambulance that can operate anywhere in the state of Wisconsin or Minnesota and talk to their home dispatch.

My real life example is two systems spread out geographically speaking. Now throw in UHF and a bunch of other systems in a busy Metro area...and the APX looks even better.

Just my two cents.
 

MTS2000des

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So for a non-professional like myself, what makes these radios so expensive?
Supply and demand, and what the customer the product is aimed at is willing to pay.

Supply of multi-band, multi-mode public safety radios is limited to a handful of manufacturers. All of them are considered "high tier" products and are priced accordingly.

Is the quality of these radios such they cost 5, 6, 7, and 8 thousand dollars.
Not really. Even a former Motorola Solutions board member was quoted as saying that in his opinion, a high tier portable radio for public safety should not cost more than $700-1000. (I am paraphrasing here)

The APX is a high quality line, but so are high tier radios from EF Johnson, Kenwood, Icom and Vertex Standard. Never owned a Harris, so I can't comment. Can't even get them out to demo their product around here.

I can see why a LE officer or firefighter needs a military spec radio, but someone in public works?
You won't get an argument out of me there. I would think buying a mission critical radio for public works or the garbage man a total waste. Having said that, there are lower tier P25 radios (sinlge band) that are a fraction of the cost of an APX aimed at those markets. Still pricey IMO, compared to say, a DMR/NXDN radio that would probably fit the bill just fine for those work groups.

Is the quality of these radios that much better, for say 450-470 MHz, than a high quality amateur radio for 70 cm.
Absolutely. The typical ham rig lacks filtering on the front end, no true narrowband capability, less transmitter stability, and of course, isn't built to be abused the way a commercial radio is. Of course, a ham rig isn't expected to be relied upon as a life safety tool, despite what some whackers might think. :D

Are these prices inflated because those using the radios don't actually pay for them, or is there some real inherent value that puts these radios at such a premium?
The first part may be true in some cases. There are governments that love to spend money like a teenaged girl with Daddy's credit card gone wild at the local mall. When it's other people's money, the sky is the limit. But these governments do this with more than just radio systems, they do it with everything.

There is a certain value that high quality tools have in certain applications. What that value is, is purely based on what the customer is willing to pay. That is how our system of capitalism works.

Personally, I think an iPhone 6 or Galaxy 6 should not cost $750-800. No way there is that much hardware in a cellphone with a screen the size of a small paperback book when I just bought a 65" Samsung flat screen LED Smart TV for not much more.

But people like up outside stores and get in fights over them. It's all in what one is willing to pay my friend.

Is the reception of a radio like an APX really that much better than a high quality non-professional radio?
ABSOLUTELY. Ham radios generally suck compared to ANY professional radio. Doesn't have to be an APX either. I have acquired many Icom LMR radios, and they blow away any ham gear, even Icom's ham stuff, for RX and TX audio quality, sensitivity, selectivity, user interface, and build quality. Even the basic stuff like my IC-F6021 which can hear stations connected to the SAME antenna as a Kenwood TM-V71A cannot. That is the difference between a TOOL and a TOY.

I am truly interested in electronics/radio and would love to own a professional radio, just for the sake of owning some of the best.
You don't have to buy an APX to have the best. You can buy other lower cost Motorola P25 radios if you need P25 for a song on the surplus market. Icom, Kenwood and Vertex Standard also make GREAT commercial radios that program into the ham bands with no real effort and will last for years and can be had at VERY AFFORDABLE prices.

My latest score for example:
Icom F3261DS Hand Held Portable Radio Receiver Fire EMS Police Programmable | eBay

I am the first one to admit that prices are inflated big time in many respects. And believe me, the costs are often inflated. That's why we are in the health-care cost dilemma we currently face.
As someone who works for a large metro area non-profit health system, I agree 200 percent. But you also know how it works. So many mice are wanting a cut of the pie. The same thing is at play with the procurement of the large radio systems in use. Many contractors, sub contractors, insurance, lawyers, all of this causes the bloat in price.

Combined with a limited market, that makes it go up even more. Just like our health care system, does a customer REALLY have a choice when EMS is transporting them to the closest ED? Nope.

Likewise, many governments feel they don't have a choice. Some perceive a want versus a need and act accordingly. Many are just inept and don't care. Some are misled by vendors who prey upon their ignorance, incompetence or corruption.

It's a complex issue as others have stated. I don't disagree that there is waste, but again, it isn't just in the procurement of radios. It's a mentality of zero accountability.

And that can be blamed on us, the citizen, for not getting involved and providing the oversight. They are NOT gonna do it for us.

So back to radios, is an $8000 dollar APX radio 8 times better than a $1000 radio?
I would say they are IF you need a multi-band, multi-mode operation, phase 2, encryption, the highest tier coolest portable radio on the market today.

If you want something just as rugged and superb performance in a single RF band configuration, you have A LOT more choices at a fraction of the cost, even new.

What makes a professional radio truly different from our scanners and amateur radio equipment (which I know can also be quite expensive).
Thank you.
I think I've covered that. But build quality, superb RF performance, manufacturer support, and longevity are what makes commercial gear superior to hobby toys.

and scanners...no comparison, especially for reception of simulcast digital. All these problems I keep hearing about with so called "simulcast distortion" simply don't exist on P25 radios. Scanner manufacturers refuse to use the correct circuitry for reception and demodulation/decoding of simulcast digital so they SUCK at it and always will IMO.

Why is that? Because their target market doesn't care and will buy whatever they are sold. Does that sound familiar now?
 

AA6IO

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Thank you all for your informative comments, and MTS200des, thank you for your line-by-line answers to my questions. God bless all our LE officers, firefighters, and military personnel in combat areas. Give them the best radios they need for communication. Disasterguy and sfd119 seem to point out some cogent reasons why an APX radio may be needed in some circumstances.
That said, I think I'll spend a little more time reading up on some of these LMR radios, and especially get familiar with E-Bay, where I have spent almost no time. Probably time, after 53 years of ham radio, to expand my horizons a bit to these other radios and the operations issues that are involved.
Best regards to all

Steve AA6IO
 

MTS2000des

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That said, I think I'll spend a little more time reading up on some of these LMR radios, and especially get familiar with E-Bay, where I have spent almost no time.
I'll say this, now is a great time to play with commercial radios in ham. I am sure you remember when it was the cat's meow to have an HT220 crystalled up on your local 2 meter machine. Much work in those days. No Ebay, no forums, and you had to piecemeal one together and then find someone to tune it up after you ordered crystals from ICM or Bomar.

Today, many good quality commercial radios are being almost given away. Now I doubt you'll find an APX8000 or any APX radio for a song (unless it went missing off a fire truck) but there is much fun to be had.

Once you experience a FOR REAL radio, you'll be hard pressed to go back to a toy radio again. Don't get me wrong, toy radios have their place, they are certainly nice when traveling and to explore the bands with a VFO, but nothing beats a rugged radio you don't have to worry about as your daily driver.

One word of caution re: Ebay, never pay more than you can afford to lose. I have had mostly good luck, but I always follow the golden rule of gambling:

As the Kenny Rogers songs says:

You've got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money, while you're sittin at the table, they'll be time enough for countin, when the dealins' done.
 

Jay911

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Sure they do. I'll take my State for instance. (...)

So now what do you do? You can't give them only an 800mhz radio and rely on patching...wouldn't work for those Wisconsin trips. You can't give them only a VHF radio and rely on patching...wouldn't work for those Minnesota trips.

The APX accomplishes this.
Agreed. As much as the answer should be "get everybody on the same system" (or at least the same band), in the real world unfortunately politics and favorite vendors means this is not gonna happen.

I worked an MVC with fire a few years ago - a semi went off the Trans-Canada Highway (equivalent to interstate), crashed into a small forest, and fragged into about a zillion pieces, some of which decided to burn. High winds pushed the fire into the forest, part of which was on a First Nation (native reserve). This sounds like one of the silly scenarios an instructor might dream up, but it really happened.

Because of the location and the myriad of services required, we had the following agencies (and their comms) to deal with.

- My FD (dispatched on UHF conventional)
- Neighboring FD (dispatched on an 800 Smartzone trunk)
- EMS (dispatched on iDEN, but that's a rant for another time)
- Police/highway patrol (dispatched on VHF conventional)
- First Nation fire department (using VHF conventional)
- Provincial Forestry crews (using VHF conventional)
- Air ambulance (using VHF conventional)
- Mutual aid fire department #1 (dispatched on UHF conventional)
- Mutual aid fire department #2 (dispatched on VHF conventional)
- EMS supervisor (dispatched on 800 Smartzone trunk, also carries iDEN)

We were the department in charge of rescue. Because the guy managed to self-extricate, we weren't needed for that purpose, but we stayed on scene for most of the incident because our rescue truck has VHF, UHF, and 800 (SZ) comms gear in it. We became the de facto command post because we were the only ones who could talk to everybody (except EMS and their iDEN phones).

When we replaced that rescue truck I put an APX7500 mobile in the new one on VHF and 7/8, because we work a lot with agencies on that 800 Smartzone system, and our provincewide radio system (soon to be made active) is going to be 700 with a VHF overlay. That takes my radio count down to 2 from 3 (I have a relatively cheap UHF mobile for the other comms).

If the 8000 and its presumed to be developed mobile cousin perform adequately, I will do my best to spec those radios in my future purchases - though I'll probably need all sorts of grants and/or lottery winnings to be able to afford them, especially since my province's budgets are largely driven by oil revenues.
 

902

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So for a non-professional like myself, what makes these radios so expensive? Is the quality of these radios such they cost 5, 6, 7, and 8 thousand dollars. I can see why a LE officer or firefighter needs a military spec radio, but someone in public works? Is the quality of these radios that much better, for say 450-470 MHz, than a high quality amateur radio for 70 cm. Are these prices inflated because those using the radios don't actually pay for them, or is there some real inherent value that puts these radios at such a premium? Is the reception of a radio like an APX really that much better than a high quality non-professional radio?

Steve AA6IO
Hi Steve,

Figure I might as well be another country heard from here. The cost of these radios reflects a number of factors, like:

1) Recoupment of research and development - this equipment is often taken into hazardous situations (even DPWs must enter confined spaces, deal with chlorine, or work in traffic or heights). Conforming to certain requirements often requires significant investment in acquiring certification, like Factory Mutual or Underwriter's Labs, and many times, those certifications are required on an annual basis.

2) Indemnification/mitigation for potential use issues - people who use these radios work in hazardous situations, whether it's going into burning buildings, responding to disturbances, or working on a pump in a sewage lift station. Sometimes those people are severely injured, become disabled, or die, and sometimes litigants may say communications devices or systems were contributing factors (and sometimes they're right). Most of the time that cycles back into R&D to meet specific needs.

3) Intellectual property compensation, patent use, and royalties - sometimes certain devices have to be used, like a vocoder, that has a patented algorithm on it. Digital algorithms are not open source or in the public domain.

4) Market forces - I would charge as much as my competitors charge and buyers will pay as far as they're willing to pay for the perceived value. They're a business and many will argue that their only obligation is to the shareholders. And, yes, the price soars the second you pin "public safety" onto something. Unfortunately, there are also agencies or people who buy completely inappropriate equipment for a given task, often significantly less expensive, and find it will fail their users in critical situations.

Now why own one of these? Well, the R&D into these products does make them function better than similar products that work on near-by frequencies. I've had people tell me "RF is RF." I've also had elected officials come to me and say they bought radios off the shelf in Bass Pro for $39 and find it incredible that I asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy radios (or millions to buy a system). True, but as the other commenters have said, performance factors do influence how well your device works in various environments.

Unless that's the job you do, you probably won't need that degree of performance or reliability.

The other is the collector factor. I know people who collect stuff from military vehicles to theme park memorabilia. This is no different. They like it, make investments in the stuff they get, and collecting the stuff makes them happy. There is usually some modification involved because some of these things aren't designed to go on ham frequencies. Others can. It used to be that none of them would and it would take a bunch of component changes or cuts with Xacto knives to finagle them into the band. That's fun for some people, too. Then there's the psychological angle. Some people fantasize about being... something else. One of these things might play into that to one extent or another.

Personally, I can't afford the actual device, nor can I afford to get a brick from a bad seller. So, I'm usually looking from the outside in. The other thing for me is that if there's limited range or action on the local repeaters with the HTs I have, getting a fancy one won't change that. The people I work for do invest in things like this for their own safety because of how they have designed their systems and for their specific uses. To them, it's one of their tools.

Caveat emptor: Some of the radios you get in the auction place might be test radios that are deliberately burned or sunk in water, but cleaned up a bit and repackaged. The very latest products are usually not out in the street on the used market unless ???
 

kf4lhp

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I can see why a LE officer or firefighter needs a military spec radio, but someone in public works?
We still, somehow, have a number of 10+ year old MTS2000s still in service with public works. They are mostly beat to death, look awful, but still work. The value proposition of buying cheaper radios just doesn't work. These go years without service other than batteries. I'm sure most anything else would have long since been destroyed. Public works service is probably just as brutal as fire service.
 

PACNWDude

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In a previous job of mine, all radios had to FM IS rated for use in oil refineries and gas/oil platforms. This drove the cost of the radio and batteries/accessories up.

The push in that industry is now toward MotoTrbo, as long as you order them with the FM IS certification from Motorola, and pay the higher cost, you get a radio that is approved for these environments.

Yaesu FTH-2070's, Vertex Duo's, Motorola Sabers and a few other radios were used before. I used a Harris XG-100P for its multi-band capability. The only others I dealt with carrying Harris Unity radios were Federal Agents and Coast Guard personnel.

Everyone else could use a cheaper radio. Single band worked, and there were: Motorola, Raytheon, Telex, Gai-Tronics, and Zetron dispatch gear available to patch others together.
 

03msc

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Thank you all for your informative comments, and MTS200des, thank you for your line-by-line answers to my questions. God bless all our LE officers, firefighters, and military personnel in combat areas. Give them the best radios they need for communication. Disasterguy and sfd119 seem to point out some cogent reasons why an APX radio may be needed in some circumstances.
That said, I think I'll spend a little more time reading up on some of these LMR radios, and especially get familiar with E-Bay, where I have spent almost no time. Probably time, after 53 years of ham radio, to expand my horizons a bit to these other radios and the operations issues that are involved.
Best regards to all

Steve AA6IO
I agree with what MTS200des said and will add this: one thing to consider when looking at commercial radios is the programming. You may know this already but while you can program a ham-specific (hobby/toy) radio by hand you most often need software and a cable to program up a commercial radio. Some manufacturers have the software out there for free while others charge almost $300 for it (or maybe more, not sure)...and that is just the software, not the cable.

I'm not trying to scare you off from commercial radios as you can sometimes find a cable for just a few bucks on eBay and then get the software for free (if the manufacturer provides it). Sometimes sellers on eBay include the programming cable and software in the sell.

My point is it's just something else to keep in mind. In other words, don't go out and buy an APX7000 series radio on eBay and expect to program it with the keypad. (I think there are instances where that model can be made to be FPP but not typically; I know other models can be.)
 

radioman2001

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$8k radios is a waste for anyone except those who actually co-ordinates a scene and have the need to talk to everyone, but not at once. Example: our FD even though we are all on the same band UHF, the Chief in charge will have 3 to 4 radios around his neck to talk to: Interior, exterior,water, EMS, traffic and the PD. Now that's if their isn't enough personnel to distribute the work load. (imagine buying 5 or 6 $8K radios for that.)
Another waste with that $8K radio is that you can only talk and receive on one channel at a time, meaning while I am talking to water, and if interior has an emergency I won't hear it. So your $8K radio isn't really needed in this case either.

We are a State agency, and as such we get quotes all the time for different radios. Recently we were asked if we wanted to go in on a quote for APX radios for Train Conductors and Engineers. Why we need a $4K radio when a $500.00 HT-1250 works fine. That is the problem with Government purchasing personnel getting quotes for radios when they don't even know what the radio is going to be user for or by whom.

Basically IMO for the cost of all these fancy $8K radios you could build a new system that everyone is all on problem solved.
 

johnls7424

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$8k radios is a waste for anyone except those who actually co-ordinates a scene and have the need to talk to everyone, but not at once. Example: our FD even though we are all on the same band UHF, the Chief in charge will have 3 to 4 radios around his neck to talk to: Interior, exterior,water, EMS, traffic and the PD. Now that's if their isn't enough personnel to distribute the work load. (imagine buying 5 or 6 $8K radios for that.)
Another waste with that $8K radio is that you can only talk and receive on one channel at a time, meaning while I am talking to water, and if interior has an emergency I won't hear it. So your $8K radio isn't really needed in this case either.

We are a State agency, and as such we get quotes all the time for different radios. Recently we were asked if we wanted to go in on a quote for APX radios for Train Conductors and Engineers. Why we need a $4K radio when a $500.00 HT-1250 works fine. That is the problem with Government purchasing personnel getting quotes for radios when they don't even know what the radio is going to be user for or by whom.

Basically IMO for the cost of all these fancy $8K radios you could build a new system that everyone is all on problem solved.
I couldn't agree more!! They are for fire command units, chief of police and heads of organizations. That is all.
 

902

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The alternative to building a homogeneous system is to not build a system and just program the thing to be on whatever band/personality/mode for one agency per channel. In a prior life and before I vested out, I began an initiative for what turned out to be a monster system that (in my opinion) spiraled out of control and became way bigger (in initial purchase cost, recurring cost, and bureaucracy) than it had to be. In addition to the infrastructure, the consultant and salespeople spec'ed high-end subscriber equipment. So, had these multiband devices been out at the time, we could have programmed them, handed them out and there STILL probably could have been a $25M net savings - because the impetus for the whole exercise was that brown guy couldn't talk to blue guy or gray gal or the guy in the big white hat while they were working together at a common incident. Period. One of my peers in a neighboring county just purchased boxes of VHF JT1000 and later XTS cache radios, and low-end mobiles, had the mobiles installed in every vehicle and put the HTs into crates with foam cutouts and industrial-sized boxes of AA batteries and called it a day.

In the end, we have this constant cycle of upsizing subscriber equipment (the LTE subscribers will probably be on 18 mo. lifecycles - reconcile that against agencies that still have HT1000 portables from 22 years ago in active service and would have continued to have HT600s if the manufacturers had not lobbied the FCC to deadline all old equipment). We also end up with this never-ending firmware and support revision cycle that mandates the procurement of new equipment whenever someone in the chain - be it a COTS product or an SP - decides they won't support the system component.

We allowed all kinds of people who have a good line of stuff about themselves to tell us that "interoperability" means colossally more than it needs to. It needs to mean that people working at a common incident can function together within a given command structure (NIMS), not that I can call my cousin 900 miles away through the network and listen to his fire call.
 

ElroyJetson

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DO NOT ASK ME FOR HELP PROGRAMMING YOUR RADIO. NO.
I'm surprised that Moto took this long to release an all-band public safety radio, but my HOPE is that the extra time they spent to develop it was invested in making it the best radio of its type. Putting extra time and effort into it in order to ensure that it is a problem free platform at first release is definitely in Moto's best interests.

As for the question concerning whether or not these radios are worth their high costs, I am a (recently retired) communications professional and extra class Amateur radio operator. I've been into radios for more than 30 years. For that entire time, I've been able to choose between your regular ham radio brands (Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, Alinco, etc) and Motorola (surplus) as well as GE (and the other names the brand has carried, up to Harris today) and I have always found the quality and real world peformance of amateur market portable radios to be dramatically inferior to the public safety grade offerings from Motorola and GE-to-Harris. I've used plenty of GE radios but used Motorolas more. My experience as a user of pretty much everything is that Motorola dominates the art and science of making a reliable, durable, easy to use portable radio that can be heard (both transmit and receive) under noisy, demanding conditions. GE (Harris) is a competent contender but if Motorola earns an A Plus, then Harris earns a B for their products. The other brands are a C minus or worse.

The simplest test is the volume test. Roll down your windows and drive at 55 MPH with your portable radio on the seat next to you with the volume turned up. If it's a public safety Motorola radio, you'll be able to hear it. Harris, MAYBE, depending on the model. I do not expect you to get satisfactory audio performance out of the other brands in a loud environment.

Now toss the radio out the window.

The Motorola radio will probably survive unless it gets run over several times.

I do not expect most of the other radios to survive that test.

As for the cost, it takes an enormous amount of engineering time and money to develop a radio that's that good, that rugged, that reliable. While raw parts cost may not be all that much once the production line is running, you have to amortize development costs into the product lifecycle. THAT is why these radios cost so much.
 

Jay911

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How do you rate Kenwood or Icom public safety radios, compared to big M?
My two cents - I have used Motorola for nearly 25 years, and have had Kenwood in the fleet for about 5 years now (TK-8180 and 7180 mobiles and 2180/3180 portables).

I once saw an MT1000 fall from the third floor of a fire training tower and not get damaged. Another MT1000 was left on the roof of a vehicle, fell off in highway traffic, and was recovered later working perfectly.

On the other hand, I've had an HT1000 fall down two carpeted stairs and break the tabs off the battery (more than once).

The Kenwood radios have fared not that badly either, but as I said I've had less time to experience them. I have had several of the portables, though, with cracked cases (something I've never had with any Motorola portable of any vintage), most often on the side where the RSM is screwed on - I suspect overtightening of the screw. I've also had a TK3180 melted in a fire even though it was inside the turnout coat front pocket - that radio was unsalvageable.

RF-wise, I've tried both the stubby ~2.5" and longer ~7" whip antennas (UHF band) on the Kenwood radios and haven't ever been able to get the radios to have the same range that any of my Motorolas have had.
 

PRRESCUE

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I see this radio same as the Harris, Thales, etc. The market for them is "maybe" command level staff, Why I say maybe. At the end of the day you are just using a High Dollar Scanner, due to the fact that you can only use one band at a time. I have been on the field, with several agencies working the mix V/U/8 and the multi band radio does no good than the single band, because the guy is talking on VTAC1 while his team is trying to reach him on UCALL and soo on. Tactical Gateways are the way to go on this, since everyone keeps their own radio and for the price of 1 apx8000 you can get an Fully Featured ACU-T and get better results at the end. By know according to DHS SAFECOM we should be sharing P25 systems, not having multi band radios that at the end will do what a single band does, and for that price I can buy 3 less expensive radios and be able to listen to the 3 bands at the same time. I'm not trying to create an argument for me is practicality. Some agencies will find it use full but in the end and I have seen it, you will have two APX7000 in the hands of the IC one VHF and one 800mhz because he needs to monitor two the two freqs at the same time.. my 2 cents.
 

902

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We might be getting into the "how much information can somebody process before they can't see/hear what's in front of them?" quagmire.
 
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