Category Archives: SMR Network

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!

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.