This article first appeared in the November 2000 issue of Monitoring Times.
This month we look into the mailbag and share some letters from readers. We'll also try and answer some questions about current and upcoming trunk-tracking scanners.
First of all let me tell you that I really enjoy your column. Your information is right on the button and is presented very well. Keep up the fine work. Now to the main reason for this e-mail. I live in the Lehigh Valley, in the West end of Allentown, PA. Recently (in late August) I noticed that the City of Allentown main fire channels went dead. Their operating frequencies consisted of two UHF (440) channels. After some digging I found out that the city was finally making its move to the trunked system that they obtained channels for. I loaded these into one of my non-trunking scanners and there they were. I don't have a trunking capable scanner that will track the system because it is an EDACS system but I do pretty well with what I have. The frequencies that are being used are as follows:
855.2125, 856.4375, 856.9375, 857.4375, 857.9375, 858.4375, 858.9375, 859.4375, 859.9375, 860.9375
Eventually all of the City of Allentown's communications (Fire, EMS, Police, etc.) will be shifted over to this new trunked system. I am hearing the fire department plus some other comms on these frequencies as of this writing. Hopefully, some of your other readers from this area will use this information & submit more on this system as it comes along.
Thanks for your time. I hope this information is of some use to you. Will look forward to hearing from you & reading your great column.
Thanks for the frequencies, Al, and keep them coming in! Hopefully other listeners in your area will also send in entries from their scanner logs, which I'll include in this column.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport
During the Labor Day holiday, I noticed 'Redcoats' (whatever they might be - no, the British aren't invading again) able to get to Fleet IDs 700-2 and 700-3, so add them to the list.
So this is what we have for the ARINC system at Baltimore Washington Intl Airport:
700-1 US Airways Ticket Counter, Supervisors, 'Redcoat', 'PSS', Coordinators, Shift Mgrs, Customer Service, Metrojet Gate Agents
700-2 US Airways Skycaps, Ticket Counter, Gate Agents, 'Commuter Sar?', 'Mainline Sar?', Commuter coordinators, 'Redcoat'
700-3 US Airways Administration, Baggage Services, Skycaps, Jetway ops, Ramp Customer Service, 'Redcoat'
700-4 ? ?
700-5 ? ?
700-6 US Airways Mail and Freight channel
700-7 ? ?
700-8 US Airways Maintenance, Utilities
700-9 US Airways Coordinators, Catering, Customer Service
700-10 US Airways Fuel Trucks
700-11 US Airways Maintenance Coordinators
700-12 US Airways Coordinators, Utilities, Baggage agents ("Makeup")
700-13 US Airways Catering, Fueling, Coordinators
700-14 ? ?
700-15 US Airways Utilities
Now you'll notice I put question marks for 700-4, 5, 7, 14. In truth all I have heard on these IDs (apart from the RARE voice stuff) are open carriers. So I can't be sure of who is using them or why these carriers are showing up like this. Anyone have an explanation?
Also, for the last day or so, I have been noticing a fleet ID of 206-01; this doesn't fit the pattern of all the BWI ARINC Ids starting with 600 or 700, so possibly this is a different company or user? Anyway, it seems this fleet ID can be reached by operations and is evidently used by maintenance personnel. I'm not sure for which company. At first I thought it was bogus, but after Radio Manager recorded it almost 2 dozen times in an hour and a half, I rather doubt it's bogus. Probably legit, but the question remains...who is this?
Any readers close enough to BWI to help answer Mike's questions?
Sullivan County, Tennessee
I READ YOUR TRACKING THE TRUNKS COLUMN IN MONITORING TIMES WITH GREAT INTEREST. IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE TO READ EACH MONTH. MY QUESTION IS THIS MY COUNTY AND CITY HERE IN TENNESSEE SULLIVAN COUNTY,TENN. BRISTOL, TENN. AND KINGSPORT, TENN. IS GOING TO A NEW RADIO SYSTEM. IT IS THE MOTOROLA 3.0 SMARTZONE SYSTEM 800 MHZ. TRUNK SYSTEM. CAN THIS SYSTEM BE MONITOR WITH A TRUNKTRACKER SCANNER? I HAVE NOT HEARD THE WORD DIGITIAL USED. I KNOW IF IT IS DIGITIAL IT CAN NOT BE MONITORED. WHAT IS YOUR OPINON ON THIS SYSTEM? WILL THEY EVER BE ANY DIGITIAL SCANNERS COMING ON THE
All of the trunk-tracking scanners currently on the market will be able to follow the Motorola system you mention. If the voice transmissions are analog, you'll be able to hear them. If the voice transmissions are digital, you will still be able to see the talkgroup IDs but you'll hear an irritating buzzing noise (the digitized voice) when users are speaking.
Regarding digital scanners, there have been rumors for more than year about an add-on or plug-in board that would decode the APCO-25 signals on new digital trunked radio systems. No board has yet materialized, so this is still considered, as we call it in the software industry, "vaporware." The most recent rumor is that Greg Knox, the developer of the original TrunkTracker, is working on a board that would fit inside the Bearcat 895XLT or the yet-to-be-released 780XLT. No estimate on when it might be ready, although the price tag may be somewhere close to $1000.
Galveston County has gone to a trunking system and no one knows what the frequencies are. Do you have any info on this subject? From what I am told, the only one who knows is the person that programmed the radios. regards..............Dale M.
The frequencies are a matter of public record, since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licenses them. Here's what I've dug up for Galveston County. It's a Motorola Smartnet system simulcasting from three sites with a system ID of 6F2E (callsign WPKN398).
Control channels are 868.5875, 868.6625, 868.8000, and 868.9125 MHz.
Traffic channels are 866.0625, 866.1625, 866.4125, 866.4375, 866.5875, 866.8125, 866.8375, 866.9625, 867.0875, 867.3125, 867.3375, 867.5625, 867.7125, 867.8375, 868.0625, 868.2125, 868.3375, and 868.4625 MHz.
However, the FCC doesn't control the assignment of talkgroups, so those have to worked out by scanner listeners (some enlightened public safety agencies actually publish their talkgroups, but they're few and far between). I don't happen to have any talkgroups for this system -- can any south Texas readers help out?
Uniden Bearcat 780XLT
I would like to known if I buy a Uniden BC780XLT if I can receive Motorola trunked systems in Florida and Massachusetts ?
The Bearcat 780XLT is a new scanner being built by Uniden. At the Dayton HamVention in May it was expected to be available in July. That date was pushed back, and as of September Uniden is anticipating the 780XLT hitting the stores in December with a list price of $379.99.
The unit will be able to track all three of the most popular trunking formats in the United States, namely Motorola, EDACS, and LTR. This will be the first Uniden scanner capable of scanning LTR systems.
So yes, John, the 780XLT will receive Motorola trunked systems in Florida and Massachusetts, as well as other states.
The unit may be operated in a base station configuration or as a mobile, although some states and localities prohibit the use of scanners in vehicles.
The BC780XLT will have a two-line alphanumeric display, with 16 characters in each line. It will also have built-in CTCSS (Continuous Tone Controlled Squelch System) and DCS (Digital Coded Squelch) decoding, S.A.M.E. (Specific Area Message Encoding) Weather Alert, 500 channel memory, and nearly continuous tuning from 25 to 512 MHz and 806 to 1300 MHz. In addition, a computer interface for PC control as well as tape recorder output and control are built-in.
As required in the United States since 1994, cellular frequencies in the 800 MHz band are blocked. Uniden has even gone so far as to coat the printed circuit board with some kind of epoxy resin that would make replacement of the microprocessor very difficult.
Radio Shack PRO-92
Early models of the PRO-92 had problems monitoring large Motorola trunked systems, which was largely due to the subaudible data method the radio uses to for trunk-tracking operations. There were also some bugs in the initial firmware, although Radio Shack would not officially acknowledge any problems the radio.
This summer Radio Shack introduced a new version of the PRO-92, dubbed the PRO-92A. The addendum to the original manual calls this the "Optional Enhancement Version." You can determine whether you're looking at a 92 or a 92A by the Radio Shack catalog number found printed on the FCC ID sticker on the back of the scanner. An original 92 has a catalog number of 200-522 and the new 92A has the letter A added to the end, 200-522A. These new units contain firmware version 3.25, which you can check by holding down the '3' button while turning on the unit.
The manufacturer, GRE of Japan, has made several changes to improve trunking performance. The original PRO-92 used the sub-audible tones carried on each voice channel to determine the active talkgroup. The new PRO-92A now listens to the data on the control channel to determine active talkgroups and frequencies.
The PRO-92A also has slightly different squelch circuitry, which some users have reported tends to be "choppy," cutting out weak transmissions and making it difficult to listen to distant signals.
There is also a different version of firmware shipping with new Bearcat 245XLT scanners.
To check the firmware version of your 245XLT, make sure the scanner is off, then hold down the 2, 4, and 9 buttons while simultaneously turning it on. My unit displays the version number 1.17 for three seconds, then shows a hexadecimal number that I suspect is the checksum of the firmware.
Original models with version 1.l7 have a built-in five second trunk delay, which many scanner listeners dislike because it can cause the radio to miss user call backs that occur on a different frequency. Newer 245XLTs have a two-second delay. Strangely enough, the latest firmware version appears to be 1.04, even though it is a lower number than the earlier 1.17 and 1.19 versions.
That's all for this month. More information is available on my website at http://www.signalharbor.com, and I can be reached via electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, happy monitoring!
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