Victorian Government Operational Communications Program Update & other matters

Hi All,

It’s been far too long since our last article, but that’s what happens when you have work, a wife and kids to consider. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had to contend with all of the above whilst still trying to have a hobby.

Victorian Government Emergency Management Operational Communications Program

As most will know the initial deadline for Victoria Police in rural areas to go encrypted on an expanded RMR Network has passed. It was an ambitious date to begin with and those who have worked in government circles will realise that.

Also let’s remember it was a timeline that was initially set during an election when point scoring between parties is at fever pitch.

Once the waters settle a little and everyone who has a stake in such a project has their say, formulates business cases, does their feasibility tests, runs tenders, sources suppliers etc. a more realistic, and attainable timeline tends to be seen and in most cases differs from what was originally stated.

This is a massive project! It is never an easy task trying to get everyone on the same page, so I don’t think we should be too surprised that we didn’t see Victoria Police in rural areas running digital encrypted on the RMR Network by July, 2017. You have to remember the original timeline announcement was set in April 2015, for a project of this size that isn’t a big window.

If it was just Victoria Police involved in the project and moving to an already long-established system then I think they would’ve achieved it. But the reality is there are many other entities involved in such a project and they’re moving to a relativity new system that needs to be expanded in order to cater to several agencies and be at a certain operational readiness in the desired areas before switch-over.

An expanded RMR Network will see the remaining four CFA Districts in the Metropolitan Fire District (Districts 7, 8, 13 & 14) migrate to the network.

The RMR Network has already started to expand and we should see just over 235+ sites when done, up from 199 sites. Some of these new sites will permit the outer Country Fire Authority brigades in the outer Metropolitan areas (Districts 7, 8, 13 & 14) to finally migrate across to the RMR Network like the rest of the agency.

An interesting note is that some time ago I was advised that the Sheriff’s Office of Victoria (SOV) was halting plans to migrate across to the RMR Network in order to do an internal review and assessment of their future communication needs.

If you have a read through some of the initial documentation and announcements SOV were part of the ‘master plan’ of inclusion and even had funds allocated to them for the exercise. However the recent revived timeline announcement doesn’t include them. I believe you will find as it stands at present they’re out of the project altogether for now, which means they may need to hand back some money to Emergency Management Victoria they received in order to budget the project at agency level under the ACMA Compliance project. Time will tell.

Motorola APX series radios are expected for Victoria Police in rural areas and Corrections Victoria.

There was a post by a user on the ‘Aussie Scanners’ forum back in July 2017 stating he’d suddenly noticed a few of his local Police carrying Tait portables and not their usual Motorola radios. I believe you’ll find some Tait units were loaned to Victoria Police via another agency for trial and testing purposes, however don’t expect to see Tait rolled out for Victoria Police. I believe you will find Motorola will be supply new radios to Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria (CV) and possibly the State Emergency Service (SES).

Victoria Police and SES will in all probability get some dual band assets, not all radios will be dual band, but expect some areas to have access to such, this will permit roaming between the two networks. I’m uncertain where AV (Rural) is at for the moment, dual band radios were touted for them as a possibility at one stage I believe. We should see only Victoria Police and CV will run encryption on their talkgroups and enjoy some nice new Motorola APX units as well as some

Surf Life Saving Victoria is still in the picture and expected to migrate with Kenwood radios.

Also of note regarding government communications is the current situation for Vicroads and its various operational departments such as  Works, Incident Response Service (IRS), Transport Safety Services (TSS) and the Traffic Management Centre (TMC).

Vicroads at present is not part of any network migration plans, which is quite interesting in my opinion. They are a government department and are existing users of a radio system, they also play a very large and vital role in keeping the road network humming along and dealing with all sorts of matters and incidents on the road network.

Vicroads used to use a very extensive radio system several decades ago with one of the greatest coverage footprints of any government department across the state at the time, some might even argue it actually surpassed elements of Victoria Police’s then VHF and later UHF network. So what happened?

I’m told that in short a certain Premier back in the 90’s envisioned that as cost saving exercise they could sell and dismantle the system and migrate to the then VHF SMR Network (based on MPT1327 protocol) which was in its early years of operation, which is pretty much what occurred. However some UHF allocations were retained for use in Metropolitan areas and the final one of those UHF frequencies was vacated only a couple of years ago.

Vicroads TSS Officers appear a little more fortunate with their current radio access than their IRS and Works colleagues.

Not long after the disastrous Black Saturday fires of 2007 there was some concern regarding their works depots lack of access to radio infrastructure and that of the Transport Safety Services (TSS) and Incident Response Service (IRS) should they need to allocate resources in to disaster affected areas outside of the metropolitan area, and they realised they couldn’t just have crews relying on mobile phone networks for obvious reasons. The TSS are bit more fortunate in this regard in that most, if not all, of their units also have access to the VHF SMR Network for rural operations and UHF for metropolitan operations in addition to MDT access. However the IRS and Works Department don’t appear as fortunate.

Things seemed to get a little worse only a few years back when they had to vacate the last of the UHF allocations of which the IRS were big users of. This also meant that some work depot crews also lost access to radio communications. The TSS were lucky in that they could fallback to the SMR Network.

I believe with the passage of time there may have been some administration matters that required them to forgo the last UHF frequency allocated for their voice communications, happy to be corrected if anyone can shed some further light on the matter.

Vicroads now find themselves on a leased UHF frequency, which incidentally if I’m correct is licensed to a chap who was instrumental in setting up the rather large radio network Vicroads used to own and operate that I mentioned above.

Surely one would think they have a good business case for access to the MMR and RMR Network? Whilst I understand they are not necessarily classed as an ESO, given the role they play on our vital roads infrastructure in time of fires, accidents, natural disasters and major incidents & events and their very regular liaison with various ESO’s they would be better serviced, as would the State and its population, they should be using the MMR and / or RMR Network?

Late last year a very limited user trial was held for several weeks in order to test some 1.8Ghz LTE technology based on a Sonim XP7 handset. The Sonim XP7 was loaded up with TASSTA PTT Software.

The Sonim XP7 handset & cradle (only) being trialed by Vicroads with TASSTA PTT software.

TASSTA software can include the functionalities of digital radio and smartphones combined. Included can be Group and Individual calls, Priority call via Push-to-Talk as well as many other additional features such as Messaging and Data transfer such as files and images, status messages, encryption, history and voice recording, GPS, emergency calls with full-duplex-mode, remote control (picture and voice), Man-Down, alarm, ID management and time tracking.

After the initial and brief limited user trial it was decided to try a trial on a larger scale, this commenced around the end of June 2017 and was intended to last for 3 months or so, so you would’ve noted the leased UHF frequency falling silent. The trial was to include the TMC, Works, TSS and IRS. It looks however as if the trial has come to halt in parts due to a number of factors. One of those being some friendly advice in regards to the legalities around the ‘use handheld device whilst driving’ rules and regulations. From this I’m assuming that the trial did not include a full fit-out of the communications package featured in the image and possibly just the cradle and handled device itself. Again if anyone can shed further light on the matter I’d be interested to hear it.

I believe there may have been another minor matter pertaining to the durability of aspects of the device, however I’ve been unable to confirm if those are device related or end-user practice related.

Around 2014 Simoco was awarded a tender by Vicroads to supply new radio hardware (based on the SRM9000 series) which included a P25 upgradeable solution. So surely access to either one or both of the States P25 networks is not that unattainable or questionable and would allow for everyone’s favourite phrase since the events of Black Saturday, enhanced interoperability.

A few months ago the below message was sent to me via the site and from someone  called ‘billy’. Below is the message from ‘billy’;

all a waste of time i use a prop mtorolla radio with all tac and repeaters on all ditital emergency frequencys you will never be able to acess or listen to what i do mobile or base not even god ha ha ha hacker on the loose f### your pi##y scanners cant encrypt nothing waste of money ,out

Billy it is so hard to argue with such well researched, composed and intelligent arguments such as yours.  But I’ll give it go, please see below for my response, also remember ‘billy’ you’re not as invisible as you think on the internet. 😉

A special message for ‘billy’. Thanks for your input to the hobby.

Morons playing with radios

Obviously big news of late in the hobby pertains to an event that occurred only the day before the State Government outlined it’s new expected migration date for the Victoria Police to the RMR Network and with it network security and encryption. I am of course referring to the incident outlined at the following links;

Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 1
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 2
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 3
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 4

Below is a recording of the communications during the above highlighted pursuit and transmissions by a ‘radio pirate’ on the Victoria Police VHF Voting Network. The recording commences shortly after an armed robbery involving firearm. Victoria Police Highway Patrol members from call-sign Wellington ‘613’ are heard locating a vehicle possibly involved and then engaging in a pursuit of the vehicle. Examples of some of the subsequent illegal transmissions by unknown persons can be heard initially at 6min & 19secs, 6min & 30secs and again at 8mins & 37secs mark of the recording. Further transmissions occur throughout the event and subsequent file.

Its a long file but worth preserving as an example of just one of the reason why Victoria Police in rural areas need to migrate to a secure network just like their metropolitan brothers and sisters did 12 years or so ago. File kindly supplied by Anonymous.

This is not the first time such an incursion on to the Police radio network has occurred. An example is in the below ACMA article from 2011.
Read this: ACMA Blog Article 2011

Below is an audio file recorded during an ACMA investigation in to pirate radio transmissions in 2013 on the Victoria Police VHF Voting Network. An ACMA callsign is heard requesting a radio-check and channel identification clarification.

Before the courts in recent times we’ve also had the following;

Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 1
Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 2
Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 3

Is it any wonder some people scowl at scanner and radio owners at times? Your average Joe can’t really differentiate between a serious hobbyist, casual listener and some wanker who acts in a manner that screws up the scene even more. All of the above examples solidifies many agencies and entities push to secure and encrypted systems and their already twisted view on the hobby.

I’ll leave it at that for now, if anyone has any information they’d like to share or advise of then drop us line.

Happy Scanning!

Avalon Airshow 2017

Once again the skies over Victoria are about to come alive and get a little bit louder as we experience the excitement of Avalon 2017. The Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition are two concurrent events; an exhibition and trade show followed by a public airshow.

The events run from the 28th February through to the 5th March, 2017, with the final three days from the 3rd March to the 5th March, 2017 being open to the public.

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An RAAF F/A-18A Hornet pilot selects gear up as he rapidly climbs in to the sky above Avalon in 2009. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

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An RAAF SECPOL MWD Team provide security to a USAF F-22 Raptor during a previous Avalon Airshow. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

Now obviously with all this equipment and aircraft comes a lot of opportunities to monitor some rare and exciting aircraft and hardware so do your homework and program up those scanners so you’re somewhat on the front foot. Don’t just think about the obvious, that being the aircraft, think about all those services and support functions it takes to make such an event possible.

You’ll have the likes of the Aviation Fire Fighting Rescue Service, Country Fire Authority, security, traffic control, caterers, Ambulance Victoria, St John Ambulance, Vicroads, Australian Border Force, Victoria Police to name but a few. Expect some of the obvious ones to be running encrypted radio systems as will certain elements of the Australian Defence Forces such as SECFOR Squadrons (SECPOL, ADG, MWD teams etc).

As with previous years Avalon 2017 will include a secondary airfield for those wishing to fly in and out of the event, this will be known as Avalon East. A rough overview of ASA frequencies in use would be;

Avalon Frequency Avalon East Frequency
Tower 120.1000 AM Tower 125.4000 AM
314.2000 AM Director  129.2000 AM
Ground (Unicom) 129.3000 AM ATIS 122.5500 AM
Approach 133.5500 AM Departures* 135.7000 AM
Departures* 135.7000 AM
Choppers 127.9000 AM
AWIS 116.1000 AM
ATIS 118.2000 AM  *Depratures via Melbourne Centre.

Another handy frequency to program up will be the nearby Point Cook CTAF frequency on 126.2000 (AM), also just a reminder that the Point Cook CTAF transmissions are currently rebroadcast on 380.9500 P25 mode.

The RAAF Roulettes will be active so it will pay to program up a couple of their known frequencies they use to coordinate their performances. At Avalon you could try 136.2000, 133.9000, 134.8000, 126.2000, 134.1000, 335.8000 and 375.4000 as a few possibilities.

The USAF returns to Avalon and with them comes the F-22 Raptor, possibly from the current deployment of such at RAAF Tindal in Australia’s north. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell

2009_03_14_0044cmax

The Australian Defence Force will once again showcase a vast array of equipment. Here members fast rope from Army Blackhawks to retake the airfield from an enemy force. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

ComGroup Australia Pty Ltd, a division of Simoco, are the primary supplier of this years radio systems.
Registered for use at Avalon 2017 by Simoco include the following 5 watt allocations;

462.6250 462.8125 463.0875 463.4375 463.7500 464.7250
465.2000 465.6375 466.2500 466.3625 466.7375 467.4625

Simoco also have the following 3w and 5w allocation registered for use Australia wide.

5w 162.2250 162.4750 162.8625 163.2875 164.6250 472.2750 472.8000 474.5750
3w 465.9125 465.9250 471.0000 471.0125 474.2750

As for what flavour of mode the installed system will be operating in I’m suspecting it would be a DMR Tier III system, at a stretch maybe P25, but we’ll have to wait and see.

With increased traffic along the Princes Freeway and surrounding road infrastructure to Avalon Airport expect Vicroads to be active on their current main UHF frequency, that being 464.2000MHz (CTCSS 179.9). Traffic Control and Parking services is being provided by Go Traffic and I’d expect them to be on the network provided by Comgroup. As with most traffic control companies UHF CB may be worth a listen to also.

The ARFF have a permanent presence at Avalon and should be able to be found on their Tait P25 system frequency of 500.8000 (NAC A5A) as well as their nationwide allocation of 509.6250 (NAC A5A). For ARFF to aircraft communications program in 131.0000 AM.

As per previous years expect the Country Fire Authority to have their usual presence. Now this one is going to be tricky as the CFA have transitioned to their new P25 Incident Control, Fire-ground and such channels. Locally the District that Avalon falls under, District 07, still uses the older analogue VHF Voting Network Channel 21 for dispatch, but as for what ‘local’ channels they may use that might be a bit hit and miss.

Use Channel Frequency CTCSS
District 7 Dispatch
(VicFire Voting Network)
21 162.4000
162.5750
162.8375
163.2250
163.5375
162.2
Airshow Command 77 161.2125 179.9
Airshow GOTO 3 161.0875 103.5
Airshow Reserve 74 161.1750 173.8
Airshow Logistics 6 161.1125 107.2

Now I can’t stress this enough, the above is a guide only based what the CFA have used at Avalon in previous years, this years allocations will possibly be very different given the CFA’s move to P25 for Fire-ground and Incident Control and the like. Channels 77, 3, 74 and 6 that were used in previous years for local control fall under the older analogue allocations and as such may now be defunct.

Ambulance Victoria in recent years have used several of their VHF allocations on the MPT1327 SMR Network, but it may be advisable to also monitor their MMR Network allocations although generally in this geographical area Ambulance Victoria do not the MMR Network. They, like any other ESO, will have selected staff who also operate on the ComGroup supplied net.

Two RAAF F/A-18A Hornets roll out on a wet Avalon Airshow day to strut their stuff. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

Victoria Police will be on the MMR Network, so forget it, as we all painfully know they’re operations are encrypted.
The contracted event Security will be provided this year by MA Security Group and I’d be expecting them to be at the very least on a ComGroup Australia supplied allocation.

St John Ambulance will again be providing their services to program up their allocations and possibly expect to hear them, or a liaison, on the ComGroup supplied system.

Bus Services are another big factor in making the event possible and support the nearby rail services, so those are two more areas to consider. Also consider there may be extra train services in to the area as a result then on to the bus shuttle services, those are bound to generate some radio chit-chat so remember those rail 450MHz and 469MHz allocations.

Another good thing to remember is that Avalon Airport is an active airport and currently services Jetstar flights and QANTAS engineering services, both who have a few frequency allocations for their needs so program those ones up as well.

131.5000 AM  QANTAS
130.2250 AM Jetstar
136.1250 AM Jetstar
505.4750 NFM  Jetstar (5 Watts)
505.7750 NFM Jetstar (5 Watts)

Also of note are a couple of CSE Crosscom allocations registered for use at Avalon Airport. I am uncertain of their use, but nonetheless they’re registered and can be found on the ACMA database so if you want to consider putting those ones in that might be a good idea.

With a major even such as this you really have to think outside of the square, or in this case the airport! Some of the old favourites such as 123.450 (AM) always seem to get run for general aviation chit-chat between pilots. Remember, do your homework, spend a little time on considering what you want to monitor, research possibilities, program up that scanner, turn on that close call feature if you have it and reap the listening rewards! Remember to be sensible with the information provided, heard and gained.

Hit us up in the comments with your suggestions or finds. I really hope this helps someone get a little bit more out of this event, have fun.

Happy Scanning!

Where are the RMR radio ID’s?

Morning All,

Well it seems many are missing having access to the RMR Network RiD’s and I’ve received many messages asking for them.

Originally I intended on having them all on one page, like I used to for the MMR Network RiD’s, but the sheer number of RiD’s and the amount of data on one page made the page extremely sluggish and slow to load.

So from there I moved them to each having their own page, which in turn required more pages to try and keep updated, the task made even harder given the dynamics of the RMR Network and ESO operations.

I’m currently sharing my CFA RMR Network RiD’s data with Jim from Ozscan and I’ll look at having a simple text document for download, mind you at present I simply do not have the time to update it.

Happy New Year to all.

General news, updates and other observations.

Firstly let me commence by wishing you all a Merry Christmas, I hope you haven’t had to release your belt notch out to far as you recover from your food induced comas.

There has been quite a bit happening of late, and sadly for myself not much in the way of scanning due to a work promotion and the arrival of child no.2 four months ago.

Victoria Police rural communications update.

Back in August 2015 we reported on how Victoria Police was to migrate from their existing VHF Voting Network to a new system. You can read that particular article here: The AOR AR-DV1 & encryption looming for Victoria Police rural communications.

2008_04_16_P4058788CMax

Telstra has won the contract to supply and maintain radios and related equipment for Victoria Police in rural areas. The project will provide encrypted communications for all Police operations in those areas and give country based Police the security their big city brother and sisters have enjoyed for over 10 years now. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

Last week it was announced that Telstra had won the contract to supply, install and maintain the new radios as part of a seven year deal. As many had speculated and advised, Victoria Police rural communications will migrate to the RMR Network and be encrypted.

Telstra in partnership with Motorola supplied and installed the RMR Network, initially for the Country Fire Authority, although there has always been plans to open the network up to other government users as part of a much bigger plan to lessen the amount of systems used by ESO’s and related entities.

As to which radio will be supplied that is still open to speculation and I understand there has been some evaluations being undertaken. News reports advise more than 8000 radios for Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Services, Life Saving Victoria and Corrections Victoria will be rolled out as part of the deal.

A news release from Premier Andrews states the following;

The Andrews Labor Government is replacing outdated and unsafe police and emergency services radios to help them safely and effectively fight crime and respond to emergencies.Minister for Police Lisa Neville and Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino today announced a seven-year contract with Telstra to upgrade police and emergency services radio equipment.

The new radio equipment will replace outdated analogue systems with new secure, encrypted digital equipment providing better voice clarity, coverage and the capability to track the location of devices, improving member safety and response times.

Importantly, the new radios will stop communications being intercepted by the public through a smartphone app or scanner.

The contract delivers on an election commitment and provides more than 8000 radios for Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Services, Life Saving Victoria and Corrections Victoria, and can be expanded to provide radio support services for other Government agencies.

Work is underway upgrading the radio towers with further work on key base infrastructure in early next year enabling the roll out of the in car and hand held radios from middle of 2017.

The Labor Government invested $11.5 million in the 2015/16 Victorian State Budget for police to upgrade to the new digital system, with further funding realised through efficiencies made by moving to the new digital system.

The Minister for Police Lisa Neville was quoted as saying; “After four years of inaction by the former Liberal Government we’ve got on with the job of delivering for country police and ensuring they have the modern resources they need to catch criminals safely and effectively.”

“The safety of Victorian Police is our highest priority and we’re making sure that the public can’t listen in on police operations and they have the right tools to catch criminals.”

Whilst the Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino said; “We’re providing our emergency services personnel with the resources they need to effectively respond to emergencies and keep Victorians safe.”

“This sophisticated technology is more secure, has better voice clarity, will reduce the risk of communication failures and improve safety for our emergency services personnel and the community.”

I’d be expecting a dual band radio, particularly for the Police, to permit operation on both the RMR Network (VHF) and the MMR Network (UHF). The same may be a possibility for the State Emergency Service, and whilst not mentioned in recent reports also Ambulance Victoria. This would fix some of the issues raised from the Royal Commission in to the Black Saturday fires of 2009 relating to radio supply and operation of such by Victoria Police members sent to assist.

In short vehicles from Metropolitan areas with MMR radios fitted were obviously useless in the rural area where there were no MMR towers and in some cases the Officers were supplied rural radios to use instead yet were unfamiliar with the radio type and its operation. Time will tell.

If the transition to the RMR Network for country police is anything like that to the MMR Network, well over 10 years ago, for their big city brothers and sisters then I’d be expecting the old existing network to run parallel to their allocations on the RMR Network for a period of time. Then we’d probably see the old VHF Voting allocations ‘re-tooled’ then possibly absorbed in to the RMR Network for use. Much like they did with the old 467/468/469MHz UHF allocations on the MMR Network.

Uniden Australia, Pacific Telecommunications, the UBCD436-PT / UBCD536-PT & BCD325P2-AU.

So as many who are familiar with the above mentioned units these are not sold directly by Uniden Australia, they are instead sold under licence by Pacific Telecommunications and are the ‘local’ version of the BCD436HP & BCD536HP units sold by Uniden America.

Many would also be familiar how there was no real set plan to release local units initially by Uniden Australia, for whatever reason or debate, until came the time the Country Fire Authority set about wanting to replace some widely used Motorola branded ‘listening sets’ (scanner damn it!) used by its members. The consideration for such units for its members was due to the CFA’s migration to the RMR Network and EOI’s were called. From that ‘local’ versions of the BCD#36HP units were born, with the expected UBCD prefix.

There was an embargo date put in place until the public could obtain a unit, one would suspect to ensure CFA members wanting a unit had first preference. I’m told this was not the case, but no real explanation or reasoning has ever been provided for the date embargo.

So now we come to the reason of my touching on the above units again.

Uniden America some time ago released a paid DMR upgrade option of its BCD#36 family of units (May 2017 article). Now earlier this month Uniden America also announced the same upgrade option for its BCD996P2 and BCD325P2 units.

bcd325p2-au

The BCD325P2-AU shown here retains the ‘BCD’ prefix of US units, a move away from the usual ‘UBCD’ we’re used to seeing locally. Instead the units designation in ends in ‘AU’, obviously denoting Australia. (Image supplied courtesy of Jim of Ozscan).

Whilst the BCD996P2 was never released on the market here in Australia or New Zealand the BCD325P2 was released locally as the BCD325P2-AU.

bcd325p2-au-b

A simplistic label on the rear of the BCD325P2-AU is the only visible means to denote that the unit differs slightly from the US BCD325P2 units. (Image supplied courtesy of Jim of Ozscan).

We, like some others, are assured that Uniden Australia are negotiating and working behind the scenes to procure and release the paid DMR upgrade option for the UBCD436-PT and UBCD536-PT units, there has been no mention if this will include an upgrade path for the BCD325P2-AU.

While we’re discussing the ability to upgrade units to DMR capable units Uniden, can we please sort out that ridiculous issue  Australian owners of US units have faced that in order to procure the upgrade option you have to have a credit card registered to a US address. Absolutely ridiculous and not ideal at all, whilst some have found a way around the issue (virtual credit cards and the like) it just simply is not good enough.

If the whole credit card fiasco is due to limiting potential exposure to credit card fraud I think you may find the US leads Australia in credit fraud. A recent Nilson Report confirms this and goes on to state; ‘the U.S. currently accounts for 47% of global credit and debit card fraud even though it generates only 27% of the total volume of purchases and cash’. But I digress, it is what is.

ACMA Online Database ‘warning’ note.

I recently visited the ACMA online database to quickly chase something up and noted a ‘warning’ has appeared on the search page. acma_logo

Visitors to the page are now seeing this: ‘WARNING: Searching Assignments by Site Postcodes or Site Postcode ranges is now deprecated. [See explanation on this Help Page]’.

When you visit the help page a further explanation is provided and states;

‘Postcode information is no longer being added for new Sites or maintained for existing Sites and current Register searches that allow searching Sites by postcodes or postcode ranges are now deprecated in this Register. Register searches that allow searching Sites by postcodes will be removed from the Register in the near future and replaced with an alternative search.’

Whilst I’m not sure what the ‘Sites Postcodes’ or ‘Site Postcode’ search function will be replaced with it will be a shame if it gets replaced with something that isn’t as informative or is open to interpretation. There are already a few ways to ‘hide’ allocations and it will be a shame if another one creeps in.

Whistler releases TRX-1 & TRX-2 scanners with DMR.

Greetings yet again,

Well within hours of our posting our last blog article regarding Uniden’s announcement of their plans to introduce a DMR capability to their existing top-tier range of scanners Whistler fired back with an announcement of their own.

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld (a)

Presenting the TRX-1 with DMR, looking very much like its predecessor the WS1088.

Whistler plan on not only offering an upgrade option for several of their existing units, just like Uniden, but have also announced two new unit types, those being the TRX-1 handheld with a case looking very much like the existing WS1088 and a desktop/mobile version in the TRX-2 looking much like the WS1098 the ‘TRX’ denoting ‘Turbo Receive’.

Whistler Group is also offering a free upgrade of the two new units to include NXDN monitoring which is currently under development and expected to be available at this stage towards the end of the year.

The existing unit types that will be offered a free DMR upgrade are the WS1080, WS1088, WS1095 and the WS1098.

The upgrade to the existing unit line will be available by Whistler’s EZ Scan PC application later this month. That is a very generous offer in my opinion!

The new units, along with the existing ones when they receive the DMR upgrade, will be able to monitor the following DMR protocols;

Conventional DMR (entered as a DMR trunked system);
Hytera XPT;
MotoTRBO™ Capacity Plus;
MotoTRBO™ Connect Plus;
MotoTRBO™ Linked Capacity Plus.

Of course there is also the expected APCO P25 Phase I and II, Motorola, EDACS and LTR.

Whistler TRX-2 Deskktop-Mobile

The TRX-2 from Whistler Group.

Whistler TRX-1 -TRX-2 & WS1098

Whistler shows of the hardware at Hamvention 2016.

As for the cost of the two new units on offer that already come with DMR and will be offered a free NXDN upgrade when available the following has been announced by Whistler, the TRX-1 Handheld is listed as $649.00 (USD) and the TRX-2 Desktop/Mobile is listed as $729.00 (USD).

At the current USD to AUD exchange rate (for Sunday 22nd May, 2016) we’re looking at approximately $899.01 for the TRX-1 and $1009.84 for the TRX-2.

Whistler has the new TRX-1 and TRX-2 models in transit to suppliers as we type this with units expected to be available for purchase in June, 2016.

Uniden announces DMR capability for BCD536HP & BCD436HP series scanners.

imagesUniden America has finally announced it plans to introduce the ability to monitor DMR systems, including Motorola’s MotoTRBO. HOORAY!

The ability to monitor the aforementioned protocol will at this stage only be offered on their flagship range of scanners, those being the BCD536HP and BCD436HP models. Now whether that includes the Australian versions in the local Pacific Telecommunications variants, the UBCD436-PT & UBCD536-PT which was offered to Victorian CFA members, I’m unsure. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t, but remember, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Those familiar with my ramblings on this blog may recall how disappointed I was when these units were announced back in November, 2013 without the ability to monitor DMR, along with NXDN. (https://vicradiozone.com/2013/11/17/uniden-bcd436hp-bcd536hp-offically-launched/) Given how rapidly DMR usage has grown in numerous countries I found its lack of inclusion perplexing.

The ability for the aforementioned units to monitor DMR will come as a firmware upgrade for a cost, just as Uniden did recently with its ‘ProVoice’ upgrade for EDACS systems.

Uniden has also announced that early subscribers for the firmware upgrade option will receive said upgrade at a cost of $50.00 (USD). No word yet on what the final cost would be for those who don’t take up the ‘early bird’ special.

Should you choose to take Uniden up on their paid firmware upgrade offer your unit would then have the following protocols open to it;

Existing – Conventional Analog channels
Existing – Conventional P25 Digital channels
Existing – Motorola Type I and Type II Trunked Radio systems with Analog and Digital (P25) Voice
Existing – EDACS Analog trunked radio systems
Existing – LTR Analog trunked radio systems
Existing – APCO Project 25 Phase I and Phase II Digital Trunked Radio systems
Existing – EDACS trunked radio systems + Upgrade Option – with ProVoice channels (paid ProVoice upgrade required)
Upgrade Option – Conventional Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) channels (paid DMR upgrade required)
Upgrade Option – MotoTRBO Capacity Plus Trunked Radio systems (paid DMR upgrade required)
Upgrade Option – MotoTRBO Connect Plus Trunked Radio Systems (paid DMR upgrade required)

I can’t help but feel there were a few clues offered on the net that this may have finally been happening. One of those is an email that was initially doing the rounds on a certain YahooGroup which was later to be deleted from the groups servers. However it had been seen by several people before its removal and the author of said email discussed some DMR results on his BCD436HP.

Secondly was Paul Opitz seeking some assistance in using DSD+ on RadioReference. Perhaps to check some data, compare results, and identify where to seek various DMR data string characteristics such as Digital Colour Codes and such?

Lastly was the recent addition of the EDACS ProVoice upgrade, I started to suspect that if they could do that with these units, there may be more looming. Guess we’ll have to stay tuned for the NXDN upgrade huh?

A big congratulations to Uniden on finally getting this option in to some of it units. I think it is long overdue and a fantastic addition to their units.

Hamvention is coming up and with it was the expectation Uniden were set to announce something special, perhaps the early announcement is to get the jump on Whistler Group who are also expected to make some sort of announcement.

You can read more details about Uniden’s announcement here: http://info.uniden.com/twiki/bin/view/UnidenMan4/DigitalMobileRadioUpgrade

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

Hello yet again readers and fellow hobbyists!

First off some news snippets to keep and eye on;

  • CSE Crosscom looks to have increased the capacity of its Connect Plus system in Victoria. I noted an increase in channel capacity from 18 channels (2 slots each frequency, so was 36 total) to 24 channels (2 slots each, so now 48 in total) recently and also noted was a new peer site (1-70). The site ID doesn’t seem to really follow the existing site ID’s of 1-31, 1-32, 1-33, etc, etc for Victoria, so not entirely sure what the go is there.
  • Uniden America and the Whistler Group look as they may both making some announcements at the Dayton Hamvention on the 20th-22nd of May 2016. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know what we want to see!
  • The new site detected for the RMR Network in Morwell has been confirmed as showing a site ID of 0399. Thanks to Mark and Firescan for the confirmation. I guess we should keep an eye out for further sites given the future plans of the RMR Network.

Where did the forums go?

To be honest I got tired real quick of some of the issues, funnily enough some of them touched on by Russell in the article presented below. Whilst I was happy to provide a platform for people to use I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the amount of people sharing, investigating, following up, etc. Also the conduct of some left a lot to be desired. We actually seemed to have people being more polite to each other when I had the comments open on the blogs pages. There may might be something in the future to replace the forums, but for now, I really can’t give the time to also make sure all the ‘kiddies are playing nice in the sandpit’.

Having said that about the forums, to those that did participate and act civil I thank you. You won’t be forgotten should something else appear.

Now for the good stuff!

Our last article featured a few words by Russell Bryant and a bit of a ‘look back in time’ with an old article of Russell’s which first appeared in October 2000 in a now long gone magazine known as “Radio & Communications”. Well we’re lucky to again have a few of Russell’s words and thoughts. (No, seriously, we are!)

I suspect some may take offence and frankly I don’t really care, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered posting the article. There are many people on various forums need to wake up to themselves and take in the ‘bigger picture’ on a few issues. Furthermore they need to understand there are many in the hobby that just might know a little bit more than they do on how the world works and how various entities (such as Governments) do indeed think and what they’re working towards.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in not only my various hobbies, and work and life, is YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not here to insult people, but as many would know the old ‘hug and kiss’ approach doesn’t work on everyone, hence I guess you could say the reason for the harsher tones. So I guess we could also invoke the old saying ‘if the hat fits’.

IN THE BEGINNING…

It is no secret. I have been around the hobby of scanning for a long time. I have seen the progression of receivers from tunable sets with limited coverage and as much selectivity (the ability of a device to respond to a particular frequency without interference from others) as a house brick, through to crystal sets then to the modern digital trunk tracking scanners of today. Adjunct to these advances in technology has been the need and desire to determine who a particular user is on the thousands of radio frequencies in use across Australia. Back when the earth was still cooling and I purchased my first synthesised scanner, (the mid 1970’s just for the record), there was no reliable source of frequency information. You used your detectives’ skills or other methods to confirm a user. When a frequency was confirmed, you kept it very much to yourself or if you did share it, it was only amongst a few of your most trusted friends.

BIRTH OF THE FREQUENCY GUIDE…

The Australian Radio Frequency Handbook was very popular.

Later on in the early 1980’s a number of frequency guides were produced but they were crude to say the least. Based on personal and individual loggings they were poorly vetted and rarely verified, but we bought them in their hundreds because that was all that was available.  One such publication was Dick Smith’s Australian Radio Frequency Handbook written by Jack McDonald.

Later in the 1980’s the then Department of Communications released under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act a series of microfiche slides detailing almost every frequency assignment across the country. If you had the money to buy a microfiche reader and the slides, then you had access to a plethora of information beyond your wildest dreams. As a result the FOI documents spawned another run of frequency guides, this time a little more accurate but nevertheless incomplete. Again we bought them without reservation.

Before anyone says anything, yes I must declare an interest in several of these guides, compiled in my name as well as several non de plumes.

Railscan Monitoring The Railways (Series 3). Just one of several publications compiled and released by Russell Bryant.

THE FORUM IS FORMED…

Okay so where is this all leading? Well I am glad you asked. For those of us with dates of birth before the 1970’s, you will probably remember Shortwave Possums Bulletin Board managed by Patrick McDonald. It was one of, if not the first attempt at an ‘internet’ based forum. A collective, where like-minded people could meet and exchange information. Sounds like a dating site! There were various ‘rooms’ that members could enter each catering to your particular bent, whether it was shortwave, HF utility monitoring or VHF/UHF services. It is safe to say this was the beginning of the modern forum that many of us join today.

From a personal point of view I am a member of two dozens radio-based forums, both here and overseas. Again it is probably safe to say that the scanning forums have exploded across the web, providing a valuable resource. Or have they?

Without naming any forum or individual, it might be argued that the forum is destroying not enhancing the hobby. How could this be? Rather easy when you consider the forum provides a certain degree (not 100 percent grant you) of anonymity, whereby users can post information and opinions without their identity being known. Of course the more you post, the more likely it is that you will reveal yourself.

THE DOWN HILL SLIDE…

This anonymity is the basis for many to post information obtained from official or semi official sources, with little regard for the ramifications. Generally speaking commercial and government users do not like details of their radio communications systems posted across the web for all to see and monitor. And before anyone says the information is ‘publicly available’ on ACMA, which of course is true, ACMA doesn’t provide details of how the frequencies are used or technical data such as CTCSS and DCS tone or colour codes etc. It is this that incurs the displeasure of most communication users. Some posters adopt the attitude of ‘tough luck’, or indeed if they didn’t post it someone else will. Might I suggest that this cavalier approach is the very reason some radio users are moving to encryption?

By way of example, a well-known overseas forum was asked by a law enforcement agency not to rebroadcast their radio traffic via a stream (something I will talk about later). The forum in question declined the department’s request citing freedom of speech provisions of their constitution. The police agency in question simply encrypted their radio signals. Naturally this was criticised by those listeners affected by the switch but understandable from the department’s point of view, either way the hobby loses.

Okay so that might be a single example amongst the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of posts made every day across the world. Or is it? Not being privy to the machinations of management of some of our agencies, it is conceivable to say that availability of scanners and the amount of information freely available on forums is one, maybe not the primary reason, that some government agencies and private companies decide to encrypt. It is correct to say that the scanner user is not, in this day and age, the main reason why radio frequency assignees decide to encrypt, it is however an element and the forum by virtue of its existence also a factor.

GET OUT THE SOAPBOX…

rantIn the past if you wanted to voice your opinion about anything, you took yourself off to Sydney’s Domain or to the central stairway outside the State Library on Swanston Street in Melbourne. Today it is as simple as logging into your favourite scanner forum and venting your spleen about everything and anything without regard to the facts or people involved, usually hiding behind an obscure username.

Often the topic is little more than a pet grievance that the poster has, with the loss of a particular service to encryption the most popular subject. Allegations of hiding misdeeds or inappropriate actions by these agencies from the public usually surface as the reason. Of course criminal activities, security threats and officer safety are not considered. It is to stop scanner users from listening in when we are bored. As far as this correspondent is concerned the sooner the police fully encrypt the sooner these posters will get tired and move onto something else.

ROW YOUR BOAT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM…

A few years back someone worked out that if you connected your scanner to a computer, had the computer permanently on-line people thousands of kilometres away could monitor radio activity without the need for scanner themselves. This new-found technological marvel became known as streaming. Today you can listen to just about anything anywhere from your home PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Today you can listen to just about anything anywhere from your home PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Forums are a common source of streams and as such anyone not really interested in scanning or scanners can monitor radio traffic from a multitude of radio users. The problem here is simple, instead of a couple of hundred at the most monitors, the potential is thousands, which during a major emergency or significant event could cause confusion or even a hazardous situation. A sudden influx of sticky beaks or rubber neckers is the last thing emergency services need. I suppose the burning issue is, can forums be held responsible for this happening? I submit they can and should.

HAVE FENCE, WILL SIT…

As part of this examination of forums, a survey was conducted on an Australian scanner forum of its member numbers and contributions. The results are interesting to say the least. The forum has 289 members, of which 151 have not posted a single message. Ninety-nine users have posted less than 100 messages, 20 have posted less than 500 messages, five members have posted less than 1000 messages and finally only three members have posted greater than 1000 messages. The forum has been in existence for nearly eight years.

Okay so there is no law against not posting, but as demonstrated above less than 7 percent of members are actively and regularly supporting the forum. The trouble starts when someone joins a forum then proceeds to suck up all the information posted but contributes none. Hardly a balanced state of affairs.

Alternatively some members post something like, “Can someone give me all the frequencies for Kickatinalong?” A quick check of their joining date normally reveals they became a member less than 48 hours previously. Again the norm rather than the exception.

It can of course be argued that a newcomer has not yet gathered the necessary data so as to reciprocate with frequency information. A proviso if I may. Anyone who knows me will know that I am the last person to discourage anyone or push them away from the hobby, but it is, generally speaking, not the done thing to join a forum and your first message is give, give and give. An introduction might be nice or have we forgotten basic etiquette in this day and age?

OTHER FORUM MISDEMEANOURS…

old-man-shapI normally do not read owners’ manuals or user guides, so now it’s a little ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ time. However there seems to be a growing practise amongst many, to buy a new scanner, have trouble programming it or indeed using it and then go immediately to press on a forum. The end result is usually one of two things. A plea seeking help to program the radio and or criticise it saying that it is a lemon and not performing as it should.

In the vast majority of situations a little time reading the manual will generally take care of both scenarios. Dare I say, there is usually someone crazy enough to spend many hours providing a step by step guide in an attempt to resolve the issue. And yes I am guilty of being crazy enough to spend many hours providing a step by step guide in an attempt to resolve the issue. However, the first question I ask now is, “Have you read the user guide?” If the answer is No, then goodbye. If you are not prepared to help yourself, then don’t expect members of a forum to help you.

AND SO IT CONTINUES…

Australia has an adult literacy rate around 99% and regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries. About 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications we also have a tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. Further 38 percent of Australia’s population has a university or college degree, which is among the highest percentages in the world.

To read some of the posts on the various local forums you would consider the figures quoted above to be fanciful. I will again pre-empt any comments by saying I make no claim to being a literary giant or indeed a great scholar. I would like to think that I can string a few words together that make sense, which are spelt correctly and have a degree of syntax about them. This does not appear to be the case with some posts made on forums. Punctuation, spelling, proper nouns and sentence structure appear to be inconsequential. Anyone attempting to raise the standard is usually dismissed as a crank or some sort of grammar police.

Radio related terms are not immune either. Some of the more glaring technical errors are, frequencies spelt frequencys, MHz shown as mhz and kHz written as khz. Overall a poor show by a hobby that wants to be taken seriously.

I am not sure of just how long it has been, but SMS or Texting has been an integral part of our lifestyle for a while now. For a number of reasons, texting developed its own vocabulary and abbreviations. Which is all well and good when you are limited by message sizes and message tariffs, but why, why has this inane practise migrated across to posts on scanner forums? God knows it is hard enough to understand the context of some post without adding things like, BUMP or a full stop, nothing else just a full stop. For those of us who spent the vast majority of our lives without mobile phones have a heart. Say what you mean, don’t use a series of hieroglyphics or non descript symbols. You never know it might actually improve your vocabulary and verbal skills.

FINALLY…

As you can see, a number of issues have been raised in this ramble. Some of a personal nature while others are shared with a couple of other grumpy old men acquaintances of mine. The underlying text is that while forums on the surface appear to be a benefit to the hobby, the argument could be made that they are destroying it. No doubt this will generate comment and criticism, feel free. Maybe I could start the anti forum forum?

Russell Bryant

Fell free to have your say in the comments section below. It’s fine to disagree, but seriously, do it nicely!

A few words from Russell Bryant, after my own ramblings.

Firstly, a few words from me…

When I first got in to the hobby of scanning in the late 80’s  it was obviously well before the masses had the internet available to them. Back in ‘those days’ we relied on a few various publications, tips from like-minded souls and in most cases foot slogging and hours and hours of listening to pin point and identify users of frequencies.

Without a doubt CB Action and its later incarnations were the mainstay for me in my early days, along with many other keen hobbyists.

One of the contributing authors ‘way back in those days’ was a chap by the name of Russell moses-commandments-cartoonBryant. Each release of the magazine saw a submission from Russell that would provide a plethora of ideas and information. Luckily for us young chaps Russell had the patience and willingness to sit down with his hammer and chisel and tap out said information on tablets of stone to share with the masses. (Feeling old yet Russell?).

A few months ago I asked Russell if he’d like to say anything about the scanning hobby, I didn’t define any particular topic, it could be anything he wanted to say and cover whatever he felt needed to be covered.

Below are those initial words and a reproduced article Russell wrote back in October 2000 for Radio and Communications, the successor to CB Action and Amateur Radio Action. Many thanks to you Russell for your contribution to the Australian scanning scene over what is now decades, ‘DECADES’ Russell!

So readers without further delay I present to you the following from Russell Bryant.

Back in the mid 80’s into the 90’s finally moving to the 21st Century, if you were interested in scanners and old enough to read, you may recognize my name.

For others you probably have no idea of who I am. By way of quick introduction, I have bounced around the monitoring hobby for a long time now, purchasing my first ‘receiver’ when I was about 16. From there I graduated to crystal locked scanners (for anyone born in the 90’s and beyond ask your grandfather what a crystal is), finally buying my first synthesized scanner in 1974.

Fast forward to the mid eighties when I was approached by the editor of CB Action Magazine to write a few ad hoc columns on scanning and scanners for the magazine. This initial link lead to a more permanent presence when I assumed the authorship of the scanning column and responsibility for the vast majority of scanner reviews.

My work as a columnist continued on and off until the early 2000’s when for a variety of reasons, which I am not prepared to expand on, the magazine(s), there had been several by then, folded for good.

Despite the lack of a publication supporting the hobby, it continued to grow, finally plateauing with the introduction of encryption on many of the country’s law enforcement agencies.While the loss of this aspect of monitoring is of little consequence to me, mainly because I worked in police communications and listening to it annoys the tripe out of me, I can understand how some lament its passing.

Anyway I was approached by the owner of this forum to pen a few articles about the ‘good ol’ days of scanning’ (bet you didn’t think you would see this did you Chris?), so in effort to highlight the halcyon days here we go.

The first trip down memory lane is from October 2000. Depending on who you believe the 21st Century had just arrived or we were a few months from celebrating it. Either way I examined the vast (?) array of scanners entering the market around that period. Laugh if you will but, a few of us oldies (a friend of mine in Melbourne knows who I am talking about) thought some of these scanners were heaven with an aerial.

Russell Bryant

Russell Byrant - October 2000 article reproduction.
Click on above image to make larger for reading purposes.

Possible changes to the MMR Network and a new customer.

It has been well over 10 years since the MMR Network was first introduced to Victoria with the initial contracts signed between the Victorian Government and Motorola in 2004. The contract called for a fully operational date of 2006, just in time for the 2006 Commonwealth Games that Melbourne hosted. The MMR Network was to replace 3 analogue UHF systems then used by Victoria Police, Metropolitan Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

The MMR Network has consistently achieved or exceeded its required levels of availability and has been a success, despite what you read on the internet by some chap that heard from his postman, who happened to talk to his wife’s friend who worked for Telstra and had daughter who dated a guy with a CB Radio. It’s done it, time and time again.

Motorola Quantar formed the backbone of the initial MMR Network.

The original remote site equipment, consisting of P25 Phase I (FDMA) Motorola Quantar Intelligent Site Repeaters, each a 19″ rack unit weighing approximately 25kg, was upgraded during the 2013 – 2014 period to Motorola GTR8000’s.

The Motorola GTR8000 which replaced the Quantar in MMR Network sites during 2013-2014.

With the upgrade to the GTR8000 came the ability of Phase II (TDMA) operation, software upgrade to core switching equipment, migration to a full IP architecture including all dispatch consoles, a new high-availability IP-based logging service to capture voice radio transmissions and the ability of interoperating with all other Phase 2 enabled networks.

For those unfamiliar with how a trunking system works it is in short a computer controlled system that allows the sharing of radio frequency channels among a group of users.

Further information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trunked_radio_system

Now ever since the MMR Network was first designed the Victoria Police was very adamant that any voice frequency they used had to be partitioned from other users of the network. The main reason they did this was a measure towards ensuring that no radio of theirs was ever queued and left waiting for an available talk frequency. Queuing is obviously not what you want in event of a major incident with a multitude of talk-groups being used by resources combating said incident.

Subsequently other uses of the network did the same as Victoria Police. There have basically been three different pools of ‘talk frequencies’ sitting in the system, one for each entity using the MMR Network.

Whilst this might help to ensure a low ‘queued call rate’, it is not really making good use of the frequencies and could mean agencies possibly missing out on radio resources (talk frequencies / talk-groups) when needed and available as they may not be being used by the other agencies.

There are features built in to the system to minimise ‘queued calls’.

So now here we are in 2016 and over the last few years a much clearer path has been laid in regards to the direction that the State of Victoria’s existing and future radio systems are to take, some of it in part due to the disastrous events of 2007 during what has become known as ‘Black Saturday’.

Probably the most recent of those changes that many would be familiar with is in the new RMR Network currently in use by much of the Country Fire Authority. It is near identical to the MMR Network however based on VHF for rural operations.

Another change has been the inclusion of another frequency for use by the states paging network known as the Emergency Alerting System (EAS).

The main change for the MMR Network is the possibility of a new user migrating to it, that being the State Emergency Service metropolitan units, not to be confused with their country units who are apparently earmarked for migration to the RMR Network.

That brings me to the second possible change for the MMR Network and one I touched on earlier in this post, frequency partitions.

Recently I noted a few MMR Network sites running with un-partitioned frequencies, meaning VicPol, Ambulance Victoria and MFB are all sharing the sites allocated ‘talk frequencies’ for their talk-groups, just as Motorola originally designed the system for.

So far the un-partitioned frequency operations has been noted on the Chadstone and Surrey Hills (SiD 0164h-0109) simulcast sites with reports of this also possibly occurring on Keilor (SiD 0164h-0203) and the Epping and Greensborough (SiD 0164h-0113) simulcast sites. There has been talk of a further site which I’m yet to confirm (due to distance) such activity on and that this may have been ongoing since late 2015.

With the changing face of Victoria’s communication systems it would appear that the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), who manage the MMR Network on behalf of the state and will also do the same eventually for the RMR Network, are looking to free up capacity.

If they wanted to increase capacity on the MMR Network by adding additional frequencies there would be hefty price to pay one would imagine, and at a guess I’m tipping that it is cheaper to remove partitions to free up the capacity already actually there, just not being used smartly, than add to it.

Knowing how adamant that the one particular user of the MMR were for the partitions to be in place originally I’m tipping it was no easy feat to convince them to do otherwise and would’ve even taken a detailed study and report to back those wanting to undertake such practises.

If you’re after a bit of light reading you can get an idea of some of what is planned for the State of Victoria’s communication networks here:

The AOR AR-DV1 & encryption looming for Victoria Police rural communications.

It has been some time since our last article and needless to say plenty has been happening.

AOR AR-DV1

AOR launched their AOR AR-DV1 Receiver. In the following weeks there appeared to be mixed reviews on various forums as to the performance of the receiver.

The receiver covers the following digital modes;
– D-Star Narrowband only. Data mode not supported.
– Alinco Only with digital unit EJ-47U (Voice mode F1E)
– Yaesu V/D mode only
– Digital CR AMBE+2 systems only
– NXDN 6.25KHz mode only
– dPMR dPMR446 and Tier 1 mode only.
– P25 Unencrypted and conventional mode only.
– DMR Tier 1 and Tier modes only unencrypted.

Some of the initial performance concerns appear to have been rectified by subsequent firmware updates, however some users still appear aggrieved by the lack of certain functionality and information not displayed on certain modes they’d expect to be able to see, such as colour codes and slot usage details.

As expected there is no ability to follow trunking networks built-in to the unit. This may eventually follow suit with some other AOR products in that an ‘add on option’ can be installed at some point though.

Whilst on the subject of trunking, please stop using as an excuse that this is a ‘receiver’ and not a ‘scanner’ as an argument for the lack of built-in trunking ability. That has never been an argument of any great strength for many years now.

Whilst I have yet to use one of these receivers myself I’m unable to comment on how it would handle local conditions here in Australia. I do think we need to give credit to AOR though for creating such a unit in this format that takes the initial steps in having available a unit on the market that can cover some of the modes that are growing in use.

I know here in my hometown of Melbourne, some of those modes are widespread and continue to grow in use.

Some of those modes have been in use for some time now and it was hoped we’d see them in Uniden’s BCD436HP and BCD536HP, however some, me for one, were left disappointed when they weren’t.

vrz-aor-ar-dv1-vrz

AOR have announced the AR-DV1 which delivers the ability to monitor DMR and NXDN, but without the ability to trunk track.

So whilst the AR-DV1 appears to have its faults at least it is providing hope and we know they’re working on it. Hopefully Uniden are now spurred on a little and are working on making our dreams come true? Please, pretty please?

Victoria Police rural operations to be encrypted by 2017

By far the biggest news in Victoria for the scanning hobbyist is that Victoria Police are moving to an encrypted communications system for its rural operations.

Whilst it was inevitable, I can’t help but feel we have only ourselves in part to blame for the decision to hasten the project so it happens sooner rather than later.

The planned move to an encrypted communications network will mean that Victorian Police Officers based in rural country areas will finally have secure communications, well over 10 years since their metropolitan & greater Geelong area brothers and sisters were afforded such a system in the Metropolitan Mobile Radio (MMR) Network.

Whilst Victoria Police started planning long ago for the replacement of its existing analogue VHF Voting Network, and its accompanying access to the StateNet Mobile Radio (SMR) Network based on MPT1327 trunking protocols, it received a massive boost in momentum during the last election.

2008_09_09_IMG_6534CMaxwell

Over recent years there has been an increase in unauthorised, and lets face it, moronic, individuals programming transmit capable equipment and either blocking Police Officers transmissions or simply swearing, playing music, challenging and insulting Police as they attempt to go about their duties.

All the above are issues that were once also encountered by Police Officers in the Metropolitan areas when they utilised the old National UHF 64 Channel allocation. However the issue of unauthorised users on the network was virtually eradicated once they moved to the MMR Network as each radio needs to be ‘authorised’ to access the system and in order to be able to transmit on it.

The other matter that has caused great concern amongst Officers is the emergence of numerous Smartphone apps that stream webcasts of individual’s scanner streams, which in most instances will include the Victoria Police frequencies.

There are some who would argue this is no different to carrying a portable scanner about, however it is obvious there is a little more to it in that Smartphone’s are used by a far greater number of the general public than what scanners are and as such there would be a hell of a lot more people now with access to Police communications.

The above matter was really bought to the fore during one particular Police incident, a pursuit in October 2014.

The pursuit lasting several hours, involving at least 4 carjackings and involving at one point as many as 30 Police vehicles, 2 Police helicopters and covered some 300 odd kilometers was listened to by nearly 9,000 people according to some media reports and statements. It has been stated in that most of those listeners were on Smartphone apps, however we need to acknowledge somewhere in there was a scanner or SDR dongle feeding those apps. Also it could be argued that a fair amount of those 9,000 listeners were also listening to via the comfort of the internet stream on their work and home computer.

Whatever way you try to group or breakdown the figures, it was a lot of listeners for one incident and doesn’t include the bloke in his radio shack, truck, car, or lounge room with a scanner.

Victoria went to the elections in November 2014 and with it a promise by Labor to give country Police secure communications. In short Labor won, and shortly thereafter the announcement that the wheels of encryption were turning a little faster. Labor announced in the 2015 budget $11.5 million in new funding and Victoria Police announced the 2007_02_04_P4028685CMaxwellredirection $23.8 million from their existing budget and planned upkeep of the existing radio network, as well as funds they’d been allocating to any new proposed system they were looking to build for the future.

It is planned for the new system to be implemented in its entirety by January 2017.

It is speculated we will in essence see an expanded Rural Mobile Radio (RMR) Network. This network was initially built for and is currently managed by the Country Fire Authority on behalf of the State Government. Eventually the management of this network will pass to the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) just as the MMR Network.

It is envisaged that other Government entities, such as the SES, Ambulance Victoria (Rural), Corrections Victoria as well as Surf Life Saving Victoria will also access the RMR Network.

The RMR Network is identical to the MMR Network albeit based on VHF frequencies as opposed to UHF which is what the MMR utilises. Both share the same system ID and are based on P25 protocols.

Victoria Police moving to a new communications network is a lot more though than just stopping unauthorised persons accessing their communications, it is also about rectifying some of the identified shortcomings highlighted during Royal Commission into the Black Saturday fires of February 2009.

In particular interoperability issues such as those outlined by the Police Association of Victoria to the Commission on behalf of its members under ‘SYSTEMIC ISSUES – COMMUNICATIONS.”

Some of the points of concern and issues highlighted included;

“The Commission has heard a considerable amount of evidence from police in the field on 7 February about the difficulties they experienced communicating with each other and their respective communication centres. It is clear from that evidence that such difficulties were life-threatening both for police and those they helped. The uncontradicted evidence before the Commission is that such difficulties were caused by, amongst other things, the schism between police rural and urban radio networks and the scattered call-taking and dispatch facilities.’

“It is likely that such difficulties would not have arisen if two of the main initiatives supported by SIPSaCs had been met: (a) the establishment of multi-agency virtual call-taking and dispatch facilities in metropolitan and regional Victoria to service the entire State; (b) the provision of a common digital mobile voice communications system that is accessible to all public safety organisations throughout the State (in particular common to police).”2009_03_08_IMG1578CMaxwell

“Instead, on 7 February 2009 police in the field had to deal with the inability of SMR radios to communicate with MMR radios and vice-versa as well as delays caused by scattered manual call taking and dispatch facilities.’

“Superintendent Billing gave evidence that for the 2009-2010 fire season Victoria Police had put no measures in place to deal with the radio communication problems experienced by police in the field on 7 February 2009. He explained that in some cases when police from Melbourne were provided with analogue radios, the radios wouldn’t work for want of a “repeater”. The members to whom these radios were provided weren’t necessarily aware of the need for a repeater because they were used to using digital radios. This is a significant risk in circumstances where an emergency requires the deployment of members from urban locations into rural areas where the technology may be incompatible. He agreed with the proposition that such a situation was ‘downright dangerous”.

“The Chief Commissioner, Mr. Overland, gave evidence that the lack of radio resources and the inherent problems experienced by police as a consequence in the field on 7 February could occur again. He agreed with Superintendent Billing’s assertion that police from metropolitan areas who were temporarily relocated to rural areas to assist with `local’ emergency response could not be provided with analogue portable radios to facilitate their contact with the relevant communications centre because Victoria Police possessed insufficient radios.”

In May of 2015 Victoria Police made public their fears that criminals may have been listening to unencrypted Police communicators to locate possible firearms to steal. Chief commissioner Tim Cartwright revealed rural firearm officers had stopped radioing in their locations when conducting safety and licence checks for fear thieves were using the information heard to note addresses and details of where firearms may be found.

So there you have it folks, it’s happening and our days of listening to Victoria Police are coming to an end. If you’re desperate you could always dial up the odd Victoria Police HF frequency and wait for the odd transmission, you may need a lot of patience though.