P25 radio as ham / first responders scanner

ZeroKelvin

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I found some cheap used p25 radios on ebay and I'm curious to know if it's legal to use these types of radios to scan first responder and ham frequencies? (I do know better than to transmit on these frequencies) I don't have a tech license yet and I'm new to the amateur radio scene. Any answers would be greatly appreciated.
 

N4VKF

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You can always listen. Transmitting on public safety frequencies obviously is not authorized unless there is no other way under part 97 when you are actually a licensed ham. I would have to assume that you would be monitoring non trucked p25 single frequency systems?
 

JimD56

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If you do not know a radio programmer/tech, it will be very expensive to have a radio programmed for a P25 System, and you as the individual have to provide all the settings. I can tell you with certainty that if a "random guy" walked into any Motorola dealer asking for PD and Fire programming in my area they would not do it.
 

Citywide173

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If you do not know a radio programmer/tech, it will be very expensive to have a radio programmed for a P25 System, and you as the individual have to provide all the settings. I can tell you with certainty that if a "random guy" walked into any Motorola dealer asking for PD and Fire programming in my area they would not do it.
Isn't that what TX inhibit is for? It shouldn't be any more expensive to program P25 than it is to program analog. If they are looking to have a P25 trunked system programmed, that's a different story-aince the radio won't affiliate it's pretty much moot, unless the radio shop is just trying to rip the guy off. Non-affiliate scan is a possibility, but I doubt there are many shops that would advocate it.

Why does everyone automatically associate P25 with trunking? There's plenty of P25 conventional in the world, especially in the ham community.
 

jonwienke

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TX inhibit turns off the PTT button, but doesn't always prevent the radio from attempting to affiliate with a trunked system. The software to program the radios is usually expensive, and isn't always available to civilians.

And you can't always scan multiple systems with a radio, given the limitations of the firmware, and the fact that most cheap p25 radios are single-band and may not be physically capable of receiving frequencies you want to hear.

Most P25 public safety systems are trunked. Since the OP didn't mention the specific systems he wants to monitor, assuming everything isn't trunked would be silly.
 

k7ng

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As jonwienke said, you won't find 'cheap' used P25 radios that cover multiple bands.

Unless the used radios came from a Federal entity (wildland firefighting radios are most common) the radios can't be programmed by the radio user ('front panel programming' or FPP) by regulation. This means you must have the appropriate software, and maybe a special programming cable. That isn't always a slam dunk to get. There are some radio manufacturers who object to passing around programming software for radios that went out of production 30 years ago.

Any used P25 radios you find, if they do work on trunked systems, probably do Phase I trunking, and for that matter, will only work with one type of trunk system - So forget about Phase II monitoring. Also, programming a subscriber radio for trunking isn't exactly simple.

Locking out transmit for channels you aren't licensed on is a great idea - mistakes happen, even if Ham and authorized PSB channels are in different zones, which logically they should be.

How will you determine if the radios actually work anywhere close to specification? Unless you know a ham with test equipment or someone who works in a 2-way shop, that might not be an easy task.

Turning used commercial radios into scanners/ham radios can be a lot more of a steep slippery slope than it might first appear.

Good luck.
 

Citywide173

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TX inhibit turns off the PTT button, but doesn't always prevent the radio from attempting to affiliate with a trunked system. The software to program the radios is usually expensive, and isn't always available to civilians.

And you can't always scan multiple systems with a radio, given the limitations of the firmware, and the fact that most cheap p25 radios are single-band and may not be physically capable of receiving frequencies you want to hear.

Most P25 public safety systems are trunked. Since the OP didn't mention the specific systems he wants to monitor, assuming everything isn't trunked would be silly.
All in one's perspective. The title of the thread is "P25 radio as ham / first responders scanner" (emphasis mine.) The definition of first responder is also a little foggy. It could mean public safety, but it could also be Red Cross/ARES/MARS/CAP, etc. I work the Boston Marathon every year and there are tons of amateurs that help out with course coordniation, relaying information from medical tents and pretty much anything else we ask them for. The title puts ham first, so yes, I'm assuming, but that assumption is that the radio is primarily for ham use.

Any radio shop that will program a trunked system for an unauthorized user shouldn't be in business, so I fail to see where there would be the possibility of a radio attempting to affiliate. I don't see others that would program it as charging significant fees, if any-my comment was directed at the statement that P25 programming would be more expensive than analog programming, not at the fact it can't be done.

As far as most P25 Public Safety systems being trunked, I suggest you search the database-the WHOLE database, not just major metropolitan areas. You will find many more places using conventional frequencies with P25 options than you thiink.
 

jonwienke

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Any radio shop that will program a trunked system for an unauthorized user shouldn't be in business, so I fail to see where there would be the possibility of a radio attempting to affiliate.

That is exactly what the OP is likely proposing--programming a radio with a system he isn't authorized to use. Obviously no malicious intent involved, as he only wants to RX, but programming a trunked system without the radio trying to affiliate is not easy. It's not just ticking one checkbox in channel settings like CHIRP.

As far as most P25 Public Safety systems being trunked, I suggest you search the database-the WHOLE database, not just major metropolitan areas. You will find many more places using conventional frequencies with P25 options than you thiink.
LOL West Virginia isn't a "major metropolitan area" and has a statewide P25 system used by a huge number of agencies statewide, not just in cities. Assuming trunked systems couldn't possibly be involved is ridiculous.
 

ZeroKelvin

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Many thanks to all the people who responded to my question, you've really helped me to understand how p25 radios work and how they're programmed.
 

prcguy

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Ebay has lots of Motorola and Harris P25 hand helds with FPP and some will do phase II trunking. I'm not advocating poaching software, but I find the latest software for Motorola and Harris is out there for free and its really easy to get. Same with programming cables. There are also experts available to help safely program non affiliate trunking if you ask around.

For single band radios and for VHF you can't beat a Racal/Thales T25. It does analog FM and P25 but not trunking and they can be had for well under $100. Motorola XTS-2500s are plentiful in every band and there are great deals to be had. I picked up a 700/800MHz version for $80 with good battery and use it to monitor my local LA City Fire Dept. For multiband radios, there are a number of Harris XG-100Ps on Ebay every month and they are a little pricey but a fraction of what a Morotola APX multiband will cost and the software is not bad to navigate. It will also program via Bluetooth so no cable is needed.

Going the commercial radio route for scanning will cost more and have a huge learning curve in radio operation and programming, but its fun and you can't beat the reception quality.



As jonwienke said, you won't find 'cheap' used P25 radios that cover multiple bands.

Unless the used radios came from a Federal entity (wildland firefighting radios are most common) the radios can't be programmed by the radio user ('front panel programming' or FPP) by regulation. This means you must have the appropriate software, and maybe a special programming cable. That isn't always a slam dunk to get. There are some radio manufacturers who object to passing around programming software for radios that went out of production 30 years ago.

Any used P25 radios you find, if they do work on trunked systems, probably do Phase I trunking, and for that matter, will only work with one type of trunk system - So forget about Phase II monitoring. Also, programming a subscriber radio for trunking isn't exactly simple.

Locking out transmit for channels you aren't licensed on is a great idea - mistakes happen, even if Ham and authorized PSB channels are in different zones, which logically they should be.

How will you determine if the radios actually work anywhere close to specification? Unless you know a ham with test equipment or someone who works in a 2-way shop, that might not be an easy task.

Turning used commercial radios into scanners/ham radios can be a lot more of a steep slippery slope than it might first appear.

Good luck.
 

ZeroKelvin

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You can always listen. Transmitting on public safety frequencies obviously is not authorized unless there is no other way under part 97 when you are actually a licensed ham. I would have to assume that you would be monitoring non trucked p25 single frequency systems?
That's correct and thank you for your response. I'm interested in monitoring ham frequencies as well as first responders dispatch and I wasn't sure if it was legal or even possible to use a p25 radio to do this.
 

Citywide173

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LOL West Virginia isn't a "major metropolitan area" and has a statewide P25 system used by a huge number of agencies statewide, not just in cities. Assuming trunked systems couldn't possibly be involved is ridiculous.
And in Massachusetts there is a statewide system that the State Police and a few municipalities utilize, otherwise the state is resoundingly UHF and VHF analog with a lot of agencies recently modifying their licenses for P25 modulation. Doesn't change the fact that there are still more conventional frequencies in use than trunking systems nationwide. He never said public safety, he never indicated that there was a trunked system involved. My statement was based solely on the information in the OPs post at face value and the subsequent reply.

If there is a shop out there charging more to program a single radio personality because it is P25 over analog, they are ripping the customer off, which was my point-nothing else, but people making assumptions have to rip it apart.
 

chrismol

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2 cents. If its legal in your state which more than likely it is, but be aware, it can be the opinion of law enforcement that a motorola in the hands of a civilian is illegal or a stolen asset, ask me how I know. So I'd keep it out of site if you wander off your property

I know everyone assumes scanning a trunked system on motorola = hack affiliating job. It doesnt have to be that way. I use a few XTS5000s to scan a local phase 1 simulcast systems. Yes scanning with an XTS without trunked programming. It works beautiful because its scanning the VOICE channels in simulcast, CQPSK modulation, beautiful p25 simulcast audio. There's nothing to affiliate that way and has nothing to do with a control channel. Yes, there is a check box for Receive Only. Also, you may have issues with simulcast scanning this way if the firmware isn't the latest version, which it always should be anyway
 

mmckenna

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I found some cheap used p25 radios on ebay and I'm curious to know if it's legal to use these types of radios to scan first responder and ham frequencies? (I do know better than to transmit on these frequencies) I don't have a tech license yet and I'm new to the amateur radio scene. Any answers would be greatly appreciated.

I'll point out that it really depends on what frequencies you are interested in.

If the agency you want to listen to is 700 or 800MHz band, that's fine, but there are no amateur radio frequency allocations in those bands, so it would not be useable for amateur.
If the agency is VHF or UHF, then you can program it for the amateur 2 meter or 70 centimeter band.

As others have pointed out, making sure the radio does not affiliate with the system in any way. Doing that can utilize resources on a multi-site trunked radio system and deprive them of resources they need. It's not as simple as "just not pushing the PTT button". Without going into a lot of details, an improperly set up radio can connect to the system without the user knowing and pulling resources from the site.

It's usually why we recommend people use scanners unless they fully understand what they are doing.

Good luck on getting your ham license.
 

ZeroKelvin

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The type of radio that I was interested in is a Motorola XTS3000 Model III UHF 403-470Mhz P25 Radio DES-OFB DES-XL I'm only interested in monitoring first responders dispatch such as FD and PD as well as any available ham ham frequencies. I'm a software developer and I understand the complexities of computer systems, so my learning curve is rather short, I wish to learn more about these systems and I thank you very much for your response.
 

AK9R

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The type of radio that I was interested in is a Motorola XTS3000 Model III UHF 403-470Mhz P25 Radio...
That radio should be able to receive amateur radio analog and P25 repeaters in the 70cm band. That leaves the question of are the "first responders" that you want to listen to using analog or P25 frequencies in the 403 to 470 MHz range?

The folks who are replying to your original question are trying to help you avoid spending a lot of time, effort, and money on a project that will fail because the equipment you propose to buy won't do what you want it to do. Have you checked the RadioReference database to see if the public safety systems near you can be received by this radio?
 

mmckenna

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I'm a software developer and I understand the complexities of computer systems, so my learning curve is rather short, I wish to learn more about these systems and I thank you very much for your response.
That's good, and it'll give you a bit of a start.
However, I run several systems at work. I'm under the larger IT organization. There are extremely few parallels between the IT field and the two way radio field.
But, having a technical mind will make this a bit easier.

For amateur radio use, yeah, you can make an XTS-3000 work for what you want to do on the 70cm side. It'll have some drawbacks, though. The lack of a VFO can be a drawback for some. On the other hand, there are more than enough memories to add all your local 70cm local repeaters and simplex frequencies. 70cm, however, can be kind of quiet in some areas, and 2 meters might have a lot more activity.

On the public safety monitoring side, this radio may or may not do what you propose, it all depends on what the local agencies are doing. If they are not on the UHF band, this radio isn't going to receive them. If they are not running analog (conventional or trunked) or P25, it's not going to work, either.

If you can give us some sort of clue about what radio systems it is you plan on listening to, we can assist.
 

krokus

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Another thing to consider, for monitoring hams on 70cm: Many are using digital methods that your radio of choice will not listen to. DMR is rapidly gaining popularity, D-Star has had moderate success, and Yaesu System Fusion has followers, none of which can be monitored with an XTS3000. So check what the hams you want to monitor are using.
 

ZeroKelvin

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Thank you for the information, but yes I am NOT looking to monitor trunked systems I just want to monitor dispatch FD and PD in phoenix az. I am becoming more interested in DMR, it seems like a p25 is a big hassle yet I still want to learn more about it.
 
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