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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Future frequencies but no way to decode in software

Earlier this year, I wrote about a new radio system which is coming to Santa Clara County. The first stage of it is going to include Sunnyvale and Santa Clara (the city of the same name as the county, that is), and it's going to use a tech called P25 phase II that hasn't been used in the area before.

This particular technology is relatively hard to monitor as an individual. The only scanner which ever did it was the GRE PSR-800, and that company has since gone out of business. There are rumors of production being restarted for that model or another one with the same capabilities under the auspices of another company, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the new local system. They finally got their FCC licenses going a couple of weeks ago for stage 1. These are the frequencies which will be simulcast from the sites in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara:

As of this afternoon, I haven't seen any activity on these channels. I've tuned in with one of my RTLSDR sticks but haven't seen anything happening. Of course, it's not like I'd be able to do anything useful with the signals, given that there's no way to decode phase II in software. The most I could do is look at the control channel (once it exists) and say "oh, look, there goes a call".

So, I've hedged my bets. I took a risk, went on eBay, and bought a PSR-800 from some random individual on the other side of the country. It showed up in the exact condition described, and seems to work. In theory, I think I have it programmed for the SVRCS system and set to record anything which might pop up. In practice, I have no idea what will happen if and when they start transmitting.

I hope I will have some good news to share on this topic at some point.