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Repeater Installation Help

ko6jw_2

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This is typical of a lot of threads on RR. That is, someone asks a really complicated question, but has already made up their mind about what they want to do. I, for one am tired of the Baofeng discussion. They are dreadful radios which should never have been sold in the US. That said, please use them, but don't ask for our advice.
 

njt462

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Jan 10, 2006
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We are taking everyone's advice and have purchased three kenwoods born and labeled to do testing to see if this improves.

As stated above it is a very tight budget so we do appreciate everyone's ideas, and are open minded, and will be testing those three. I'm sure based off the feedback these kenwoods will be better, and I will report back. On where we are thinking of going from there.
 

mmckenna

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We are taking everyone's advice and have purchased three kenwoods born and labeled to do testing to see if this improves.
OK, good.
Baofengs are in no way equal to Kenwood. Whoever told you that is on some manner of crack or crack like substance.
I "inherited" a radio system at one of our sites that was built like this. Low buck repeaters, cheap antennas, all Baofeng radios. It was installed by a guy with no test equipment. I spent about a year overhauling that system. The repeaters were tuned properly with a service monitor ($40K piece of test gear that I had to pack to the top of a mountain), that fixed a few issues/shortcomings. I replaced all the cheap antennas at the repeater sites, that fixed a few more issues. I replaced cheap coaxial cable and connectors, that fixed some more issues.
The biggest improvement in the system was to get rid of the Baofengs that they were sold. I replaced them with new Kenwood NX-3300's. Audio quality improved, coverage improved, lots of annoying issues went away.
For kicks, I put two of the Baofengs on said $40K service monitor. One was 550 Hertz off frequency, which is way out of spec for any reputable commercial gear. The other one was over deviating by quite a bit. The third one just flat no longer worked. The problem with Baofengs and the like is that there is no way to align them. They come from the factory like this and they either work OK, or they don't. If they don't, they cannot be fixed, you throw them in the trash and spin the wheel on a new one. Might get a good one, might get another crappy one.

There are several of us here that do two way radios systems for a living/career. None of us are going to buy the "Baofeng are as good as Kenwood" thing, so best put that aside. Perpetuating that statement tells us that you have very limited experience in this field and arguing the point is going to lead nowhere. I get it, we were all new once, but trying to B.S. us isn't going to work. Several of us are trying to give you some good advice that would normally come with an invoice attached.

As stated above it is a very tight budget so we do appreciate everyone's ideas, and are open minded, and will be testing those three. I'm sure based off the feedback these kenwoods will be better, and I will report back. On where we are thinking of going from there.
OK, let me point out some other things here since we're getting on the right track.

Do not buy anything from someone who is trying to sell you an $800 repeater. It's either used, or it's a cheap Chines POS. The system I inherited above is running Bridgecom repeaters. They are about as low as I'll go and still take seriously. Those run about $1400 each brand new.
And someone saying they'll sell you a repeater -and- a license is blowing smoke. You don't "buy" a license. A repeater is going to need to be put on coordinated frequencies. Before you buy anything, you need to get your frequency coordination done. It's possible there may not be any usable VHF or even UHF frequencies in your area, so buying any equipment first is very risky. Until you know for sure where the coordinator is going to put your system -and- you have your license on it's way, it's down right foolish to be buying any equipment.

And no frequency coordinator is going to put a towing company on "public safety" anything. The FCC doesn't work that way. You'll get a frequency pair out of the pool, that's it.

You are totally welcome to do what you want, but we're really trying to help you out here. Trying to build a reliable repeater system on a budget isn't going to work well unless you have several thousand dollars to spend. If budget really is tight, you'd be much better off going with a commercial radio shop that will have a system they can put you on. They've done all the hard work and will have repeaters located a high altitude sites that your company would never be able to afford. They'll sell you the radios you need and charge you a monthly fee to use their system. In exchange you'll get proper equipment and a radio system that will do what you need all at a cost way below what you'll spend trying to build your own system.

Even if you do decide to build your own system, that's not the end of the story. Repeater systems require periodic maintenance. At minimum they'll need annual maintenance done to make sure the system is operating within the limits of your FCC license. Repeaters periodically need to be tuned. Running your own repeater system is a huge undertaking, and I'm not sure you understand exactly how expensive it's going to be.
 

njt462

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@mmckenna
Thank you for all the wonderful feedback and advice. We are to the point now that once the kenwoods arrive we will see if those improve.

You bring up lots of valid points and just saved us from a cluster. As the old saying goes if its too good to be true it probably is. Based off what you said the person trying to sell plug and play is looking for a quick cash and run thing.

However, today we have located a spot where we get in all three buildings with help from a 25 watt mobile radio throwing it out on an output frequency at ground level.

We have talked to the building owner and have came to a very reasonable monthly price to install when time and budget allows with a professional.

One last question of course there are a million what ifs but theorically if 25 watts is hitting all three ground level. The antenna on roof at say 30 to watts should be golden? Of course a million what ifs, but when the time comes that location and wattage should work?
 

ladn

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One last question of course there are a million what ifs but theorically if 25 watts is hitting all three ground level. The antenna on roof at say 30 to watts should be golden? Of course a million what ifs, but when the time comes that location and wattage should work?
It's not the watts out of the radio, it's the watts actually reaching the antenna, plus the characteristics of the antenna that will determine coverage.

In a very simplistic system just for an example:

The "radio" puts out 30 watts measured at the antenna connector.​
It's connected to a diplexer with a loss of 3dB, now you have 15w output.​
That 15w goes into the feedline to the antenna with 3dB loss, now you have 7.5w at the antenna connector.​
The antenna has a modest, but accurate, gain of 3dB, now you have an effective radiated power (ERP) output of 15w.​
We didn't address the acquisition cost of the antenna and feedline, nor the cost of installation labor and hardware. Two words, "not cheap".

There's also the consideration of back up power for the repeater system.
 

K4EET

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It's not the watts out of the radio, it's the watts actually reaching the antenna, plus the characteristics of the antenna that will determine coverage.

In a very simplistic system just for an example:

The "radio" puts out 30 watts measured at the antenna connector.​
It's connected to a diplexer with a loss of 3dB, now you have 15w output.​
That 15w goes into the feedline to the antenna with 3dB loss, now you have 7.5w at the antenna connector.​
The antenna has a modest, but accurate, gain of 3dB, now you have an effective radiated power (ERP) output of 15w.​
We didn't address the acquisition cost of the antenna and feedline, nor the cost of installation labor and hardware. Two words, "not cheap".

There's also the consideration of back up power for the repeater system.
ladn, remember that they are on a tight budget and want to go as cheap as they can possibly go. Your numbers are assuming high quality hardware ($$$s) which I do not think will be the case here from what we've seen so far. So your loss numbers may be off by 3 dB to 9 dB and I'm being conservative. If they use RG-58... o_O
 

ladn

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ladn, remember that they are on a tight budget and want to go as cheap as they can possibly go. Your numbers are assuming high quality hardware ($$$s) which I do not think will be the case here from what we've seen so far. So your loss numbers may be off by 3 dB to 9 dB and I'm being conservative. If they use RG-58... o_O
@K4EET --- I agree, but in the interest of fairness, I wanted to give a best case scenario.
 

njt462

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Thanks guys for the follow up answers. Yes on a shoe string budget it fair to say there gonna be losses and there through antennas, wires, etc.

So we are still waiting for Kenwood radios to arrive for me to do a follow up otherwise gonna have to wait till we got 5 to 20k and go from there. :)
 

mmckenna

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gonna have to wait till we got 5 to 20k and go from there. :)
$20K is a more realistic budget. $5K might be fine for an amateur radio grade system.

Installing professional repeaters isn't something you are going to be able to pull off on your own with no experience. Buying random parts off the internet isn't going to provide any suitable results. You will need to hire professionals to do this. The test equipment required is well beyond a Radio Shack SWR meter. No professional is going to touch a system that isn't properly licensed, and isn't going to guarantee their work if you ask them to set up a bunch of random stuff bought online.

You have two good options, if you can afford them:

Highest cost option:
Build your own repeater system. $20K might get you a good repeater, frequency coordination, licensing, duplexers, coaxial cable, connectors, lightning suppressor, proper grounding, antenna support, antennas, installation, alignment and commissioning.
Then you need to budget for your mobile/portable radios. Mobile radios will need proper installation. This isn't stereo shop type stuff.
You'll be paying to house your repeater at someone else's building. You'll be fortunate if they don't require liability insurance. We require $1 million in insurance just to step foot on our sites….
And what you'll end up with is a low level repeater giving you short range coverage for $20K +
Then you'll need ongoing maintenance/support.

Lower cost option:
Contact a local radio shop and ask about commercial radio service. You'll buy the radios you need plus pay a monthly airtime fee.
What you'll get in return is coverage way beyond what you'll ever achieve on your own, county/state/regional coverage, not a couple of miles. You'll get your own channel/talk groups. You'll get support. You'll get a reliable system. Someone else will maintain it.

Building a repeater system to cover a few sites with a handful of users is really expensive.

If you give us an idea of where you are located, someone may be able to suggest a local radio shop that has a system you can access much cheaper than building your own.
 

bill4long

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Thanks guys for the follow up answers.
Dunno if anyone mentioned it, but check out local trunking systems were you can lease a talkgroup (or two or three) on a professional repeater system. Might be the right fit, or not. But it's an option. Good luck.
 

W9BU

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If budget really is tight, you'd be much better off going with a commercial radio shop that will have a system they can put you on. They've done all the hard work and will have repeaters located a high altitude sites that your company would never be able to afford. They'll sell you the radios you need and charge you a monthly fee to use their system. In exchange you'll get proper equipment and a radio system that will do what you need all at a cost way below what you'll spend trying to build your own system.
Dunno if anyone mentioned it, but check out local trunking systems were you can lease a talkgroup (or two or three) on a professional repeater system. Might be the right fit, or not. But it's an option. Good luck.
These two comments should not be ignored.

In business, we learn about managing risk. In many cases, you will be money ahead if you pay someone else to take the risk, rather than exposing yourself to the risk.

Sure, you can build a radio communications system yourself. You absorb all the risk of making sure all the equipment is compatible and operating at peak performance over the life of the equipment. You absorb the risk of locating, licensing, building, and maintaining a repeater. You absorb the risk of rebuilding that repeater when it gets taken out by a tornado, lightning strike, wildfire, etc.

Or, you pay a competent radio shop who already has a community or trunked system on the air. They provide radios that work with their system; they maintain those radios; they provide air time on their repeater; they maintain that repeater. They absorb the risk. Yeah, it costs you more than trying to do it yourself. But, you eliminate a lot of your risk.
 

tweiss3

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Going with the above comments, don't forget time is money. Are you prepared to be up there weekly, deal with all the call outs at any time of night when something isn't working? Is your employer willing to pay you for that time? Are they ok with taking time from other tasks to deal with this?
 

WB9YBM

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Law enforcement gets around this problem with "mobile extenders"--basically a repeater in the trunks of their squad cars, so they can use their H.T.s from the basement of a home to talk to their dispatcher.
 
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