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School campus repeater options

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samsat

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The two guards huts at the high school are at the other ends of the campus with buildings in the way.
The security manager wants to be able to connect with either guard hut from anywhere on the campus.

Maintenance staff also need to be able to connect with one another from all over the place.

They currently use commercial 4w UHF radios with mixed results that they would like to improve on.
They are prepared to buy new radios.

They are looking at installing two repeaters, one for security and one for maintenance. To me it seems like overkill on such a small campus where they are only just at the extremes of simplex operation with the exception of in building comms. where they are struggling for reception. They insist that security must have their own channel.

Would a Hytera DMR type system not be a better solution?
Any other suggestions?
 

ohiohonda

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I would think any conventional DMR tier 2 repeater would work for this application. I would provide two voice channels on a single repeater. The advantage to this is that you would be able to use multiple vendors for the equipment unless a proprietary setting was enabled on the repeater.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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I agree, DMR would work well in that environment. The location of the repeater antenna will determine if one repeater will suffice. I believe it will. I studied a community college with several large campuses and the coverage was good with one repeater at each site. With two time slots, security and maintenance can operate independently on one repeater. If they insist on separate repeaters, use that opportunity to use them to provide back up talk groups for each department. That way a failure of one repeater won't impact day to day operations. I'd the coverage is marginal, then IP site connect can bridge the two repeaters if located at separate ends of the campus.

Use one time slot for Maintenance and one for Security. Depending on Maintenance traffic you could squeeze in an Administration talk group as well.

DMR is a good fit for schools.

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N4GIX

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DMR would be an excellent and relatively inexpensive choice. With two time slots, and a huge number of available Talk Groups, many different configurations and privileges could be easily designated.
 

samsat

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Many thanks for the replies.
A tier II repeater with 2 time slots sounds like a great single repeater solution. The security manager just wants to make sure that his staff can have free access to their channel without interference from any other users eg. maintenance. This why they wanted 2 repeaters. A single Tier II repeater sounds like it will easily deal with this. A 5w repeater would be more than adequate.

Assuming one IP connects the repeater, for staff inside buildings with poor reception, would one make use of one of the DMR IP gateways and if so how is this implemented? If not then how would one deal with this?

The next step would be to find a competent installer.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Many thanks for the replies.
A tier II repeater with 2 time slots sounds like a great single repeater solution. The security manager just wants to make sure that his staff can have free access to their channel without interference from any other users eg. maintenance. This why they wanted 2 repeaters. A single Tier II repeater sounds like it will easily deal with this. A 5w repeater would be more than adequate.

Assuming one IP connects the repeater, for staff inside buildings with poor reception, would one make use of one of the DMR IP gateways and if so how is this implemented? If not then how would one deal with this?

The next step would be to find a competent installer.
There are a number of "walkie talkie" apps that will link to the repeaters, but they can be more costly than simply installing an additional repeater if required. Locate all the dead spots before committing to that band aid. By the way DMR will provide significantly better coverage footprint than narrow FM. Find those holes and make the contingency a second IP linked repeater if required.

If you use those apps, the users will be tempted to ditch the radio and operate from the WiFi system using smartphones. When someone gets hurt or Security is away at McDonald's when a fight breaks out, there will be fingers pointed and they will be asking why the radio system didn't work. I wouldn't even go there with those apps to fix coverage holes.

Are you using a Consultant? Because my next steps would be a needs assessment and system evaluation way before hiring an installer.

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jhooten

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It would be faster and cheaper for the school district to ask for a couple talk groups on the city trunking system and "borrow" a few of the old radios laying around the radio shop.
 

samsat

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All good advice. Yes I need to find a decent consultant to do a proper site inspection.
It's a private school so I guess no chance of the district helping out.
 

mmckenna

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A couple of other ideas....

Unless this is one -huge- high school, needing 2 repeaters is a bit overkill. I'd even go as far as to say needing -any- repeater is probably overkill.

It's easy enough to set up one analog repeater with two separate tones, one for security, one for facilities. Neither group would need to hear the others. But, before you jump on that, consider that situational awareness for -all- the staff can come with some benefits. Simply locking out the janitors because they are not security guys might not be the best idea. A single channel analog solution would be much more cost effective. User training will take care of the rest. Facilities radios can be set up to not allow transmitting if the repeater is already in use by security. You would also likely be able to use the existing radios if you stuck with analog. If you do go with DMR, it's going to require all new equipment.

Also, do NOT(!) pick radio brands, technologies, or any of that before talking to either a consultant or a reputable radio shop. Salesmen just LOVE customers that walk in with a predetermined idea of what they need, especially when its something expensive/new technology/elaborate. They'll be more than happy to sell you exactly what you ask for. They have a 6th sense of knowing exactly what your budget is and figuring out a way to exceed that.
Instead, have a well thought out list of expectations for radio coverage and uses as well as an agreed upon budget. Walking into a meeting with a sales guy not knowing what you want or how much you can afford is going to end in disaster. Realistic expectations are very important. Key word is "realistic". "Radio coverage everywhere" is not realistic. P25, full AES encryption, AVL/GPS/Man Down/IP67/Intrinsically safe/ etc. are not realistic. No matter what, someone will find a place that even the most expensive radio system will not cover. Usually something like 95-97% coverage is considered pretty good. Getting from 97% to 99% coverage will often double the price. Getting 100% coverage is going to bankrupt you. Even the best built public safety systems won't have 100% coverage.

If you do go with a repeater, a well placed system running a few watts would be plenty. 50 or 100 watts to cover a high school is a red flag, and will probably be rejected by the frequency coordinator.

Consider having the district (if this is a public school system) look at a district wide system. Since these systems can be expensive, it can make a lot of sense to look at the bigger picture, not just a single campus. That may also get you better funding.

One item you should consider is that at some point someone is going to forget radio protocols and transmit student information overt the radio for everyone in receiving range to hear. It would be wise to consider some form of simple encryption on the security or administration channels/talk groups.

Keep in mind that a repeater will need to be licensed. That will likely require frequency coordination, so make sure you figure in the costs of that, having someone knowledgeable do the applications and an experienced shop set up, program, install the repeater.

Before spending money on a repeater, you -really- need to look at the overall costs. You are easily looking at a few thousand dollars to do this correctly and legally. There are other solutions...

Cell phones. I know, security guys don't like cell phones, they want two way radios, but someone in control of the money is going to ask this. There are cellular "radios" that actually look like two way radios, but work on the cellular network. Bonus is you'll get incredible coverage.

WiFi. Likely your school already has some level of WiFi coverage. It may be considerably cheaper to add a few WiFi access points in strategic locations to cover the entire campus. Plus, you likely already have (or nearly have) pretty good in-building coverage. There are some good WiFi radios on the market. Icom has a pretty good system. Benefit is you can easily expand coverage by adding WiFi access points, and often that funding will come (at least partially) from the IT side. Other benefit is depending on how the networks are set up, you could expand coverage to other campuses relatively easily.

I'd still say get someone to look at your existing radios and make sure they are up to snuff. 4 watt UHF should do pretty well. I wouldn't rule out issues with radios.
 

samsat

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One of my suggestions was to install base radios with external antennas at each guard hut. This would easily sort out out hut to hut and supervisor to hut comms. issues from pretty much anywhere on campus on say channel one.

On channel two, this leaves the supervisor to maintenance and maintenance to maintenance comms. problem as well as the supervisor to logistic staff member who sits in an office with bad reception.

My suggestion for the logistics person was an external antenna.
Maint. 1 at the baseball diamond with Maint. 2 the other side of the school would remain a problem with the above scenario.

It's a question of how much expense to go to to get the maint. staff to speak to each other on the odd occasion that their 4w CP200 radios were just out of range of each other.
 

mformby

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Conventional repeater

The two guards huts at the high school are at the other ends of the campus with buildings in the way.
The security manager wants to be able to connect with either guard hut from anywhere on the campus.

Maintenance staff also need to be able to connect with one another from all over the place.

They currently use commercial 4w UHF radios with mixed results that they would like to improve on.
They are prepared to buy new radios.

They are looking at installing two repeaters, one for security and one for maintenance. To me it seems like overkill on such a small campus where they are only just at the extremes of simplex operation with the exception of in building comms. where they are struggling for reception. They insist that security must have their own channel.

Would a Hytera DMR type system not be a better solution?
Any other suggestions?
If you run into a budget problem, since you already have some conventional UHF radios you could get a conventional UHF repeater with a multi-tone panel. Security and maintenance could use separate tones (private lines) and would not hear each other. As a two-way radio dealer I had many customers (mostly schools and hospitals) doing this.
 

samsat

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The multi-tone panel sounds good. The main problem is that the security manager does not want a situation where the repeater is occupied by maint. when security needs it.
 

mmckenna

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The multi-tone panel sounds good. The main problem is that the security manager does not want a situation where the repeater is occupied by maint. when security needs it.
This is why I mentioned user training and managing expectations. Spending money on a second repeater or upgrading the entire system to digital will be expensive. There are cheaper ways to solve this. Remember, this is a high school, not a police force.
 

samsat

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I agree.

The manager is an ex cop and wants the same level of comms. as when he served.
Improving propagation with better antennas I still believe to be the most cost effective solution that will see immediate improvements in the shortest space of time for security. Security and maint. are already on separate channels so that deals with exclusivity. So, the only real issue is for the sec. mgr. to be able to get hold of anyone including office staff and maint. folks from anywhere on campus.

For those of you who know the Motorola CP200, would it be worth sending then for an alignment to make sure they are on frequency and getting the full 4w to the antenna?
 

cmdrwill

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For those of you who know the Motorola CP200, would it be worth sending then for an alignment to make sure they are on frequency and getting the full 4w to the antenna?
A very good Idea. Trouble is finding a 'radio shop' that has the expertise to really be able to thoroughly test "older radios".

The so-called motorola shop in S D is a bad choice.
 

samsat

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I guess at worst, I could get a motorola to BNC or PL259 adapter and with my frequency counter and power meter give them a basic test.
 

mmckenna

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For those of you who know the Motorola CP200, would it be worth sending then for an alignment to make sure they are on frequency and getting the full 4w to the antenna?
I'd also look at the antenna themselves.

Sometimes buyers will pick the radio with the smallest antenna, mostly for looks, compactness, etc.
Using a higher gain antenna can help.

Also, some people will use the antenna as a handle, or other odd things, and they can get damaged over time. If these radios are more than a few years old, it would be worth checking or even replacing the antenna.

4 watts on UHF should work pretty well, unless your high school is really big, or made with a lot of reinforced concrete.

And, as I said before, user training can play a big part. Using speaker mics with the radios on the belt is about the worst thing you can do for coverage. Holding the radio up at face level without the speaker mic, can help.
 
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