Tag Archives: Communications

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!

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.

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.

Victoria Police increase capacity of Air Wing downlink capabilty?

It would appear that the Victoria Police may have increased the capacity and amount of hardware in place in order to support the Air Wing rotary assets downlinking abilities. For those unaware the ability to downlink permits the air wing assets to send audio and visual footage from its onboard cameras and F.L.I.R to selected ground locations and other assets along with other data and information.

2010_05_27_0948CMax

This appears to have come by the provision of additional Cobham equipment in place at selected facilities. Previously there had been more air wing assets than hardware in place at these locations, however with the additional equipment install the Air Wing could in theory have all four of its helicopter fleet providing a downlink capability at the same time provided all of the helicopter fleet had the required cameras and equipment installed on them.

An overview and idea of the equipment installed on board and at remote receiving locations can be found here;
http://broadcastrf.com/cobham-hd/
http://broadcastrf.com/cobham-pro-rxb-receiver/

The Victoria Police currently operate four helicopters, these being 3 x Eurocopter AS.365N3 Dauphins and 1 x Eurocopter EC-135T2i.

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Images courtesy of Chris Maxwell

Site updates, a discovery & a big THANKS!

RMR Network Info

Wow wow wow!

Let me just start this post by saying thank you to all who have been contributing to the RMR Network Sites information page.  I am in awe of the amount of people who have assisted with this, including several from interstate and rural Victorian areas. Thank you very much for your help.

As with any new network the hard part is trying to get a jump-start on getting some credible information together. I think we’ve managed to achieve that ten-fold and this will certainly assist many in getting a start on what they need to do to monitor this network or at least provide them with the initial tools and information they will be seeking as they learn.

It’s amazing to see how much the RMR Network Sites page has ‘bulked up’ over the last few months. For the record that page was first published by us at Vicradio Zone on the 08/08/2013 with a mere two sites being listed. Incredible how things can change when you get a dedicated bunch of enthusiasts together and give them a platform to share what they have.

We’re just four site towers away from having the Hume Region towers SiD’s and Control Channels sorted. Obviously we’re a little way off from finishing entirely yet though, but I think we’ll get there.

RMR Network UiD’s Info

We’re still working on this slowly and I’d like to thank those that have assisted in providing information where they can. One of the avenue of resources has permitted to me to confirm my own or others observations as a ‘third avenue of confirmation’ which assists in solidifying the information. Sunday evening (01/05/2014) we released another three pages of UiD/RiD’s with more to come. It’s a slow process but we will get there.

In regards to UiD/RiD’s we’ve changed how the this information is accessed. Initially we had all the information on one page, but the sheer amount of data tended to slow the page and site down, so in recent months each CFA District has received its own page.

If you’re looking for a particular UiD/RiD just use the sites search function located on the top right hand side of the site and that will take you to the relevant CFA District Page that the UiD should belong to if it is indeed recorded on the site.

MMR Network MFB / ESTA Discovery

As many would be aware there has long been two TGID’s that fall in the Victoria Police range of TGID’s that are used by ESTA for training of its staff assigned to Police Communications (VKC) operations. Those TGID’s being 1701 and 1702.

Recently ‘melbscan’ reported that he’d heard what sounded to be ESTA Console Operator training for MFB operations on two TGID’s that fall within the Metropolitan Fire Brigades allocation of TGID’s, those being 10060 and 10061. So program these up and have them handy!

Previously no activity has been noted on these TGID’s and they have sat amongst a group of approximately 17 TGID’s that we’ve long wondered what, if any, their use may be for. Those 17 TGID’s being;

10005 10006 10007 10008 10012 10022 10026 10030 10034 10038 10039 10040 10044 10050 10060 10061 10079.

I’m advised that ESTA possibly have access to several TGID’s for training of its operators that fall within the allocation of each service on the MMR Network, so there is a real possibility that ‘melbscan’ may have finally found those two TGID’s used by ESTA for ‘VKN8’ operator training and furthermore there could be a few amongst the Ambulance Victoria allocation range of TGID’s.

Until next time folks, happy scanning!
Vicradio Zone.