Will we see a Uniden unit selected for CFA Volunteers?

There has been a lot of conjecture and discussion of late on some communication forums and those that are frequented by Country Fire Authority (CFA) Volunteers and Staff in relation to the planned new ‘listening sets’, so I’m going to add to all the conjecture! (Insert evil laughter soundtrack).

First and foremost can we please stop referring to them as ‘listening sets’? What decade are we in? Is anyone heading home in their horseless carriage to listen to the Top 40 on the wireless tonight? See what I mean?

Let’s try and use words like receiver, or scanner, like most people in the 21st Century do.

Expressions of Interest were released, discussions had, Request for Tenders released and subsequently rewritten by the looks to take into account future technology protocols, namely Phase II (TDMA) protocols.

Let’s break a few things down a little and try to sort out some of the possibilities.

It will in all probability be a handheld given they’re much easier to transport and carry around if need be. I’d be surprised if they offered a mobile/base unit given the limitations of portability and power requirements of that type.  There may however be a few possibly for use in a station environment or similar as a guess.

It will need to be able to be produced in large numbers given CFA claims of nearly 66,000 volunteers, although one would imagine that not every volunteer will want or need one, even so if only half of that number decided to purchase one that’s still nearly 33,000 units.

CFA LogoThe CFA Volunteers representative body the Volunteers Fire Brigades Victoria states in their position paper on the project that after an initial CFA purchase of 10,000 units of the former Motorola model in the 90’s that there may in fact be up to 21,000 of the former units in use. If this were true that is a fair amount of units that will need replacing. You can read their paper here: VFBV Position Paper – Listening Sets

By the way, I’m only adding this as a possibility of what may need to be catered for, I personally would be surprised, but pleased, if that many units were sold, but then again never say never.

The CFA is asking for an initial 2 units for reviewing and subsequent initial supply of 3,500 units. Although as with most things there may be some wriggle room and they may accept a few less units in the initial batch.

It will need to be able to have its profile upgraded as the CFA Channel Fleet-map and associated allocations evolve and change. How annoyed would you be if you forked out your dollars only to have the CFA change things further down the track and then 6 months after purchase the channel allocations are outdated and couldn’t be updated?

The same can be said for the fact it would appear they intend on using the receivers for monitoring of other emergency services. Which begs the question, will the State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers be offered the same deal as the CFA volunteers given they themselves may wind up on an expanded RMR Network and they can undertake like-minded activities in assisting and providing an ESO response to the community?

Obviously here I’m thinking along the lines of most current generation of scanners whereby you can simply upload updated profile by way of a computer and cable, or in some cases an SD card.

Ideally the unit should be from a company with a strong presence in Australia to support faults and failures and general product serviceability. Imagine how annoying, time-consuming and expensive it is going to be to have to send the unit overseas for repairs if it was a company with little to no presence in Australia. I think that would rule out Whistler/GRE and their current range of Phase II capable units.

The unit production is going to need to be cost-effective. Meaning it will be cheaper to modify an existing unit already under production for CFA use, if they can’t achieve this it means added cost to CFA Volunteers, the Government and subsequently the taxpayer.

I don’t see Motorola or Tait researching or modifying any of their existing gear to RX only and keeping the costs down per unit.  Yes, Motorola did do this in the past however Motorola equipment tends to be some very high-end gear and back when this previous project was undertaken it wasn’t as expensive to do given the more simplistic technology used, and Motorola did have the mainstay of supplying radio equipment to the CFA back then which would’ve made it more appealing to undertake.

bcd436hp

Will we see a variant of the Uniden BCD436HP as the preferred receiver for its volunteers?

Taking in to account what I’ve suggested above I’m tending to lean towards the already popular brand here in Australia (and worldwide for that matter), Uniden.

I’m thinking we just might see a local version of a unit already released nearly a year ago on the US, albeit here in Australia it is for a selected market only, namely those associated with the CFA and as such may have some CFA branding and ‘one offs’ so to speak.

However this may in turn mean a public release of the unit in the long run should all go well. Fingers crossed!

I do have concerns after reading the EOI and RFT published by the CFA whether they will totally achieve all functions and abilities they’re considering in the units, however I also feel on reading the documents that the CFA realise this.

If you have the means a review of the RFT document entitled “A.2 Attachment 1 Technical Specification”; states the following under Section 1.1 of the document and associated table;

Term Meaning or Definition
Must The required feature or function is mandatory
Should The required feature or function is desirable
Could The feature or function may be offered as an alternative or to enhance value
Will Not The feature or function is unacceptable.
ACMA Australian Communications and Media Authority
TGID Talk Group ID

So by using this table and on reading the CFA’s ‘function wish-list’ you start to see a few possible existing market units that whilst they don’t have all the bells and whistles initially intended they still in fact meet the intended basics of the desired unit.Page 5 of the same document I mentioned above has the following points in section;

“4. Air Interface”
“4.1 POCSAG Paging
The Monitor Receiver should be capable of receiving and decoding POCSAG paging messages at 512 bps. At least 6 CAP codes should be supported and be configurable by the user.”

and also of note is;

“4.6 P25 Paging
The receiver should support P25 paging and allow the user to configure the subscriber ID for paging.”

As you can see by the above two examples whilst the ability to perform the above is included in the wish list, by use of the word ‘should’ it is not a mandatory component. If they were mandatory the word ‘should’ would have the word ‘must’ in its place.The above two examples also appear to be the only two functions that can’t be met by the current generation of scanner I believe will be offered under this project, however this is negated by the use of the word ‘should’.

There you go, I’ve now added my bit of conjecture for some to ponder. 

3 thoughts on “Will we see a Uniden unit selected for CFA Volunteers?

  1. It will be interesting to see what CFA decide on. It would appear at the moment that it would be a Uniden product or variant of unless there is something else lurking out there currently that fits the criteria. For the vols out there that desire a new scanner (a.k.a listening set) to monitor the new digital network I hope the evaluation period is not as long as some….

    • Uniden Australia are considering the BCD436HP at this stage. There will be no firm commitment or answer until at least August 2015. There are many ‘tweaks’ needed to make the scanner suitable for use in Australia. unfortunately the BCD436HP has it’s own issues to overcome yet before it could even be considered for release here. The scanner was released on the market too quickly and has more faults and glitches than you can poke a stick at. As for the desktop version – this has it’s own issues that are causing Uniden America more headaches than they can handle. At the moment it’s pretty much rated the `worst scanner ever released’. Don’t hold your breath for a new scanner within 12 months – the current UBCD396xt is still the best on the market and leaves the BCD436Hp for dead for reliability..

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