Picking up RCS North from Lakeside/El Cajon

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Gamefreak88

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Is it possible to pick up the NORTH ZONE from east county? I have all the zones programmed in to my Pro-197. I can pick up everything in my area (El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove, Heartland Fire, CHP El Cajon, National City, Chula Vista... etc, but I can't get Poway, Encinitas, Vista, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Northcomm, etc. A friend is able to listen to them ALL clear as day. I have the exact same control channels as he does. He has the Uniden handheld, but I don't see why that would make a difference.

I have a theory. I believe because I have several control channel frequencies programmed, it see's the South Zone as having the best signal and uses that. The problem being that perhaps the channels I referenced in the paragraph above aren't on the South Zone.

> When I have ONLY the South Zone control channel, I was able to pick up everything except the talkgroups referenced in the first paragraph. (tested against another Pro-197, programmed identically, completely independent antenna, but with all 4 control channels and was getting the exact same talkgroups on both scanners)

> When I have ONLY the North Zone control channel, I was able to pick up Sheriff Santee Dispatch, Sheriff Encinitas Dispatch, and Escondido PD Disp 1, Carlsbad Disp 1, but ALL were nothing but static.

> When I have ONLY the East Zone control channel, I was able to pick up Sheriff Rural Dispatch clear as day which never happens when all 4 are programmed in.

> When I have ONLY the Northeast Zone control channel, I pick up NOTHING.

868.41250 - South Zone Control Channel Primary (99%)
863.15000 - North Zone Control Channel Primary (29%-90%, averaging in 60's)
868.92500 - East Zone Control Channel Primary (22%-77%, averaging in 60's)
868.18750 - Northeast Zone Control Channel Primary (01%)

I am using a Radioshack discone antenna on my roof.

Point/question: How do I listen to all 4 zones at once?
 

K6CDO

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Is it possible to pick up the NORTH ZONE from east county? I have all the zones programmed in to my Pro-197. I can pick up everything in my area (El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove, Heartland Fire, CHP El Cajon, National City, Chula Vista... etc, but I can't get Poway, Encinitas, Vista, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Northcomm, etc. A friend is able to listen to them ALL clear as day. I have the exact same control channels as he does. He has the Uniden handheld, but I don't see why that would make a difference.

I have a theory. I believe because I have several control channel frequencies programmed, it see's the South Zone as having the best signal and uses that. The problem being that perhaps the channels I referenced in the paragraph above aren't on the South Zone.

> When I have ONLY the South Zone control channel, I was able to pick up everything except the talkgroups referenced in the first paragraph. (tested against another Pro-197, programmed identically, completely independent antenna, but with all 4 control channels and was getting the exact same talkgroups on both scanners)

> When I have ONLY the North Zone control channel, I was able to pick up Sheriff Santee Dispatch, Sheriff Encinitas Dispatch, and Escondido PD Disp 1, Carlsbad Disp 1, but ALL were nothing but static.

> When I have ONLY the East Zone control channel, I was able to pick up Sheriff Rural Dispatch clear as day which never happens when all 4 are programmed in.

> When I have ONLY the Northeast Zone control channel, I pick up NOTHING.

868.41250 - South Zone Control Channel Primary (99%)
863.15000 - North Zone Control Channel Primary (29%-90%, averaging in 60's)
868.92500 - East Zone Control Channel Primary (22%-77%, averaging in 60's)
868.18750 - Northeast Zone Control Channel Primary (01%)

I am using a Radioshack discone antenna on my roof.

Point/question: How do I listen to all 4 zones at once?
The short answer is "You can't, from that location."
The four simulcast cells are geographic. From the Santee/Lakeside area (located in a valley):

  • South Simulcast Cell: you are in the middle of it, looking directly at a minimum of three sites.
  • North Simulcast Cell: depending on where you are in the area and how high your antenna is, your antenna may have a path through the hills to one or more sites (Mount Soledad or Mt. Woodson).
  • Northeast Simulcast Cell: there is too much earth (El Capitan Peak) between you and the sites in the Northeast Cell.
  • East Simulcast Cell: same answer as the North Cell, for sites east of you.
Your setup (with a fixed, broad-band low-gain antenna) means you will get what signal is delivered to that particular point in free space. Your friend with the portable (presuming he was not using your fixed antenna for the comparison tests) is getting different qualities and quantities of signal to decode on his portable receiver. Also, if his portable is using a radio-mounted antenna, he can move it around to get better signal.

You could shift the antenna to a higher-gain band-limited antenna for the 800 MHz spectrum, but you would lose reception performance on VHF-Low, VHF-Hi, and UHF.

Don
 

carlt

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I also get traffic on the North cell while in Santee, El Cajon, & Spring Valley. This is while driving, so maybe I hit spots just right, but it does happen.
 

Gamefreak88

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I'll try and clarify further (I tried keeping it simple) to help better understand my setup. I own the following:

2x Pro-106: County of San Diego (RadioShack 800MHz antenna)
2x Pro-197: County of San Diego (RadioShack antenna, one for each, completely independant of each other, 15 feet apart, on a metal roof top of a mobile home)
1x Pro-106: City of San Diego (RadioShack 800MHz antenna)

I live in Lakeside, but can be anywhere in San Diego county with my mobiles (border to Escondido, ocean to Boulevard). I don't usually go past Alpine (eastern direction) or below Chula Vista (southern direction) or above Poway (northern direction). But it does happen sometimes. I chase news at night for the local tv stations, so I never know where I will be or who I will need to listen to. Sorry for the long explanation, but I thought I'd clarify further to make it easier.

For my comparison of picking up Oceanside PD and Escondido PD, my friend and I were in Serra Mesa (city of San Diego area) and he was able to pick up those agencies clear as day. Me, standing right beside him with my Pro-106 handheld's, could not. I literally drove to Oceanside last week for a call, had Oceanside's talkgroups enabled on my scanner and got nothing but static. Sure, they tried to come in, but nothing but static. I tried attenuating the signal, removing the antenna, and running it normal with the antenna and no attenuation. No luck. I can literally be in the city I'm trying to scan, and not be able to pick it up.

In an effort of completeness, I will post my exact configuration below (with anything outside of, for example Oceanside PD, removed). Note that these "hits" were from while I was in Oceanside, but it was only static. I was there for about 2 hours.

----alpha tag------------------type-----------tg id---------hits---------
OCS 911 EMERG--------Group--------24720--------0
OCS FIRE CMD 1--------Group--------38384--------0
OCS FIRE CMD 2--------Group--------38400--------0
OCS FIRE TAC 1---------Group--------38416--------0
OCS FIRE TAC 2---------Group--------38432--------0
OCS LFGUARD TAC2--Group--------29296--------0
OCS LFGUARDS---------Group--------38528--------7
OCS PD CMD 1-----------Group--------38336--------0
OCS PD DISP 1-----------Group--------37280--------160
OCS PD DISP 2-----------Group--------37296--------1
OCS PD ENTRY 1--------Group--------38288--------0
OCS PD ENTRY 2--------Group--------38352--------0
OCS PD NEGOTIATE --Group--------38320--------0
OCS PD SNIPERS------Group--------38304--------0
OCS PD SWAT 1--------Group--------38128--------0
OCS PD SWAT 2------- Group--------38144--------0
OCS PD TAC 1-----------Group--------37312--------0

My control channels (COMPLETE list, in order as programmed, all in one "system") is as follows for all my COUNTY scanners (signal strengths are based on Pro-197 scanner at home with rooftop antenna):

868.412500 - South Zone Control Channel Primary (99%)
863.150000 - North Zone Control Channel Primary (29%-90%, averaging in 60's)
868.925000 - East Zone Control Channel Primary (22%-77%, averaging in 60's)
868.187500 - Northeast Zone Control Channel Primary (01%)
868.450000
867.750000
861.200000
868.662500
868.862500
868.837500
863.250000
868.475000
858.200000
862.050000
865.250000
857.225000
860.200000
867.775000
867.912500
868.075000
868.137500
862.150000
862.200000
867.950000
868.375000
868.550000
868.162500
868.337500

I listen to the RCS (which is of course 800Mhz), but also CHP conventional (39MHz) and CDF/Calfire conventional (151-159MHz) on occasion. If I have to make my scanners 800MHz-only, I guess that is worth it, and I can just buy more scanners to dedicate to conventional 39/151-159MHz scanning which I rarely use anyway.

Scalradio/carlt, are your control channels or talkgroup ID's or antenna different than mine?

I must have something very simple wrong, because I can't understand why when I am in the heart of Oceanside, I can't hear Oceanside (or anywhere for that matter).

My apologies on the long post. I appreciate any and all help!
 
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Gamefreak88

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To Don,

I saw one of your posts, and I quote: "Well, not knowing where in the Ramona area you are and what your 996's antenna system consists of, from the symptoms you listed it appears your 996 is monitoring a different RCS cell than your 396 is. Not all RCS talkgroups are allowed on all RCS cells. While the Poway and Rural TGs are normally patched together, they do have different cell permissions (with different coverage areas).".

I may very well simply not understand how scanners use control channels. I was always under the impression that if I have as many possible control channels in my system list, that as I drive around (e.g. from El Cajon to Oceanside), my scanner will either automatically (OR by turning the scanner on/off) pick up the correct control channel (e.g. if I'm in El Cajon on South, and I drive to Oceanside it would pick up North instead). With that said, does Oceanside PD only exist on North? Is my scanner getting "stuck" on South even when I'm in Oceanside, and therefore not picking up North even though it's presumibly a much better signal?

I have now enabled "Show CC info on display" on my scanner. I have noticed in the past few hours since enabling it, it is always using CC01 (868.4125). I will try and find some time to drive to Oceanside and see if my scanner is getting "stuck" on CC01 (South). I will also try removing South from my list of control channels and see if that forces it to pick up North. My basis for all this is that I assume NORTH and SOUTH have different talkgroups.
 

Gamefreak88

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DDan,

Although I did experiment with the MultiSite feature for a few hours one night, it is and has been set to OFF for the about 2 years I've had my scanners. When I did set it to Roam for a few hours, I was parked in a parking lot in El Cajon and it kept trying to find a better control channel. I lost out on over 75% of radio traffic because of it constantly trying to find a better control channel (when compared to my absolutely identical scanner next to it, with MultiSite set to OFF).
 

W6KRU

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Oceanside, CA
You have a bunch of freq loaded that you should remove. The ones for Imperial county and several of the intellirepeater sites. Only put in the frequencies for the north, south, and east zones.
 
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W6KRU

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DDan,

Although I did experiment with the MultiSite feature for a few hours one night, it is and has been set to OFF for the about 2 years I've had my scanners. When I did set it to Roam for a few hours, I was parked in a parking lot in El Cajon and it kept trying to find a better control channel. I lost out on over 75% of radio traffic because of it constantly trying to find a better control channel (when compared to my absolutely identical scanner next to it, with MultiSite set to OFF).
There is your problem. You need to read the the link I sent to the easier to read manual until you understand it. You are expecting the scanner to do multisite tasks with multisite turned off.
 

Gamefreak88

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Hi DDan,

From the current complete list below which I have programmed, would you suggest I only program the bold ones? What happens if a "tower goes down" or I am in a different geographic location? A major concern of mine is that in the event of a major disaster (anyone remember the huge county-wide power outage a few months ago?) where towers are going down or on generator power, I am VERY active chasing news and need to be able to listen. I assume the alternate control channels exist for this very reason? In case one goes down, they start using an alternative one?

What are the pros and cons of only having the bold ones? Sorry to nitpick. I trust you know more than I do, but I'm trying to understand why less is better?

868.412500 - South Zone Control Channel Primary (99%)
863.150000 - North Zone Control Channel Primary (29%-90%, averaging in 60's)
868.925000 - East Zone Control Channel Primary (22%-77%, averaging in 60's)
868.187500 - Northeast Zone Control Channel Primary (01%)

868.450000
867.750000
861.200000
868.662500
868.862500
868.837500
863.250000
868.475000
858.200000
862.050000
865.250000
857.225000
860.200000
867.775000
867.912500
868.075000
868.137500
862.150000
862.200000
867.950000
868.375000
868.550000
868.162500
868.337500
 

Gamefreak88

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Also I have read the easier-to-read manual. I read it about a month ago when I tried changing the MultiSite setting. But the problem remains that when I have it set to ROAM, I miss out on OVER 75% of radio traffic, which is completely unacceptable. It seems when set to ROAM, and I'm parked and not moving, the scanner wastes most of its time trying to find a better control channel. Perhaps when I tested the setting it was a fluke. I will try and test with MultiSite set to ROAM again, both while parked and driving around.
 

W6KRU

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You have freqs. for imperial county(863.250 and others) that you are never going to hear in SD county, but you are missing the alternate CCs for for south north and east zones. You need the red and the blue frequencies for the zones you want to hear.
 

Gamefreak88

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So to clarify, I only need as follows, based on this list:

868.41250c --- SOUTH ZONE (CONTROL)
863.15000c --- NORTH ZONE (CONTROL)
868.92500c --- EAST ZONE (CONTROL)
868.18750c --- NORTHEAST ZONE (CONTROL)
867.91250a --- SOUTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.07500a --- SOUTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.13750a --- SOUTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
861.20000a --- NORTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
862.15000a --- NORTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
862.20000a --- NORTH ZONE (ALTERNATE)
867.95000a --- EAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.37500a --- EAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.55000a --- EAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)
867.83750a --- NORTHEAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.16250a --- NORTHEAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)
868.33750a --- NORTHEAST ZONE (ALTERNATE)

If I were to be in Imperial, San Onofre, etc, and I DONT have those control channels programmed... won't I not be able to pick up anything?

I'm still confused why less is better.
 

W6KRU

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Here are the freqs. for north, south, and east zones:
South 867.91250a, 868.07500a, 868.13750a, 868.41250c
North 861.20000a, 862.15000a, 862.20000a, 863.15000c
East 867.95000a, 868.37500a, 868.55000a, 868.92500c

You won't need any more frequencies than that in most cases. The extra unneeded frequencies will cause problems in multisite because the scanner has to check a bunch of unnecessary channels.
 

Gamefreak88

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I suppose that makes sense, having too many control channels with MultiSite being set to ROAM. For the past 15 or so minutes I've had MultiSite set to ROAM on one of my two desktop/roof antenna Pro-197's. I am watching the signal bar go from 5 to 0 to 0 to 0 to 1 to 0 to 3 etc, as if its trying a ton of different control channels.

One more question for now and then I'll test your suggestions. Is there a reason why you don't suggest Northeast?

Oh, and does it matter what order I program the control channels in? I presume it goes from the top of the list down, so I presume I'd put all my controls first and all my alternates after?

Thank you for all your help!
 

K6CDO

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The RCS is configured so that an agency's talkgroups are enabled only in the geographic area(s) they operate in. City talkgroups are enabled in the cell(s) the cover that particular city (Oceanside, North Simulcast. Escondido, North Simulcast plus two smaller cells that fill in spots. El Cajon, South Simulcast. etc.). Likewise, Sheriff's station dispatch groups are limited to the geographic areas they cover (which is why Poway is enabled in the North, Northeast, and East Simulcast cells, but Rural is not enabled in the North Simulcast cell.).

Another factor in decoding Simulcast control channels using a scanner is the slight timing differences between transmitters. Using the example you first set forth (a fixed antenna with a single receiver at your home in Lakeside), you may be in a position where you are seeing usable signal levels from two of the North Simulcast's sites, but the timing of the audio (which is optimized for users operating in the primary coverage area) is just slightly out of phase, presenting distorted data to the decoder in your scanner. As a result, just as the users or dispatchers can't understand a user who 'went digital,' the scanner is not able to read the data.

Hope this helps (some).
 

W6KRU

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You should make a V-scanner folder for imperial county.

The intellipeater sites like San Onofre, Boucher, Harmony hill, etc. are of limited value because of the limited traffic heard on them. Don is much more knowledgeable on RCS details than me. The way I understand it is the only radio traffic on the intellipeater sites is the traffic for RCS units in the area that are affiliated with the sites. No units in area, no radio traffic repeated. There are probably exceptions to this but someone else would have to provide those details.
 

W6KRU

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If you use the roam setting, the threshold values are an important part of it. The stat mode with the check all CCs option is a little less complicated to set up.
 

K6CDO

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...
One more question for now and then I'll test your suggestions. Is there a reason why you don't suggest Northeast?
...
You should make a V-scanner folder for imperial county.

The intellipeater sites like San Onofre, Boucher, Harmony hill, etc. are of limited value because of the limited traffic heard on them. Don is much more knowledgeable on RCS details than me. The way I understand it is the only radio traffic on the intellipeater sites is the traffic for RCS units in the area that are affiliated with the sites. No units in area, no radio traffic repeated. There are probably exceptions to this but someone else would have to provide those details.
The Northeast Simulcast carries the same traffic as the East Simulcast. Since it covers the mountain areas north of Julian and east of Palomar, unless you find yourself there I wouldn't bother with it, or put it in your other site folder.

As DDan points out, one of the "Smart" parts of the SmartZone technology is that traffic is only delivered to the areas where there are users. As an example, if there is no RCS user listening to the CHP El Cajon Dispatch TG in the Northeast Simulcast, CHP El Cajon Dispatch traffic will not be broadcast on that cell.
 
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