Digital vs. Regular scanners

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Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by bigmattdaddywack » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:13 pm

Are digital scanners a necessity now? Are the lower priced "regular" scanners obsolete now. I plan on getting a good scanner but I do not want to have to spend a lot of money on a digital one.

Any advice?
Any thoughts?
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by eugene » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:21 pm

It depends on what you want to listen to.
You have plain old analog then analog trunking (various protocols) then digital trunking (again more than one)and encrypted.
Go to a site like radio reference and look up whats being used in your area for what you want to hear and then buy accordingly. Of course research and see if they are planning any replacements and/or upgrades of the system.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by bigmattdaddywack » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:31 pm

eugene wrote:It depends on what you want to listen to.
You have plain old analog then analog trunking (various protocols) then digital trunking (again more than one)and encrypted.
Go to a site like radio reference and look up whats being used in your area for what you want to hear and then buy accordingly. Of course research and see if they are planning any replacements and/or upgrades of the system.
Thank you. I am gonna need a digital one, if not now, really soon.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by zommoz10 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:59 am

In addition to what eugene said, a lot of the business radio users are going digital too but not all digital systems can monitored.
There's a lot of proprietary technology that they won't pick up.
MotoTRBO for instance (what Dog The Bounty Hunter uses.)

What were you wanting to monitor?

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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by bigmattdaddywack » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:01 pm

Thank you
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by gary in ohio » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:27 pm

bigmattdaddywack wrote:Are digital scanners a necessity now? Are the lower priced "regular" scanners obsolete now. I plan on getting a good scanner but I do not want to have to spend a lot of money on a digital one.

Any advice?
Any thoughts?
Its totally going to depend on where you live and what you want to listen to. Our local PD/FD is all analog so a cheap scanner will work.. Go to the next county over and they are all digital and trunked so big dollar scanner is needed.

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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:08 am

If you live in any major metro area (US 25 largest cities) I wouldn't advise buying anything new that doesn't do P25. That said I live in Los Angeles County in a small community, and my main scanner is a Radio Shack Pro-46 I bought off ebay for $20.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by crypto » Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:31 am

bigmattdaddywack wrote:Are digital scanners a necessity now? Are the lower priced "regular" scanners obsolete now. I plan on getting a good scanner but I do not want to have to spend a lot of money on a digital one.

Any advice?
Any thoughts?

Well, heres the background on digital scanners:

Land mobile radio comms were really in a mess a decade ago. In addition to the normal FM radio incompatibilities (VHF radios cannot talk to UHF radios, neither one can talk to long-range low-band radios), the analog trunking systems made by Motorola, Harris, Thales, etc over the last 20 years are all vendor-specific technologies, which means that one department's trunked VHF radio may not by able to talk to another departments trunked VHF radio. It all led to a lot of incompatibility, which came to a head on September 11 2001, when just about every emergency department in NYC responded to 1 World Trade, and communications turned into a major cluster fuck. The fire dept couldn't talk to the port authority, which sometimes couldn't talk to the police, etc. The tactical comms situation was a mess, and many people saw the incompatible radio systems as partially to blame.

There was a new public safety standard for digital radios coming out, called Project-25. It had been ratified and developed in the 1990s. Suddenly, there was a flood of federal grant money for local departments to purchase these fantastically expensive radios in order to standardize communications among departments. And with that, the mass migration to digital began.



Now, heres the problem:

1. Why its expensive
P25/APCO-25/ASTRO (three names for the same technology) scanners are digital networks that encode voice as digital data. As well as requiring a dedicated CPU inside the scanner to decode the data, the scanners use a proprietary algorithm to do the decode, which costs money to license. Both those facts mean that you wont find a P25-capable scanner that costs less than about $450 new or $300 used.



2. Whether you need one
In general terms, you need to look up the scanner frequencies for the organizations you wish to monitor, and see what kind of radios they use. This information is easy to come by for most, there are many enthusiast websites with frequency/channel directories to program into your radios, and several that even distribute scanner files you can download directly to your radio. The departments will use one of the following three technologies:
* Analog single-channel FM
* Analog trunked FM radios
* P25 digital trunked radios

I list those in order of increasing expense of the scanners. The analog FM scanners are $20 used all day long. The trunked analog FM "Trunktracker" scanners are about $50 used, and $120 new. And as I mentioned, the P25 scanners are hideously expensive, both due to inherent cost and the technology license.

Now, in particular, Matt, here's the deal for STL:

* The bad news is that St. Louis Metropolitan (City) Police is on P25. So are some of the richer municipalities, I think St. Peters and O'Fallon are too.
* Most of the smaller municipalities in the metro area are using analog trunked FM systems.
* St. Louis County PD and fire, as well as city fire are all on analog FM right now. HOWEVER, St. Louis County is currently migrating to P25, department by department. Beth just got issued a P25 radio last year.

So, thats the news. The department I want to listen to the most is on P25, and the department I want to listen to the second-most will be on P25 in the next year. That means there's really no getting around a P25 scanner in the STL metro area, unless you just want to listen to trash trucks and bus drivers.

The only good news about this is that after spending tens of millions of dollars on new radios, the federal money is drying up, and no one will be getting new radio systems for the next 20 years.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:50 pm

You're not necessarily safe with a P25 scanner.

A growing number of public safety is going to MotoTRBO and NexEdge because they're incredibly flexible multiple channels on one box, virtually plug & play, cheap encryption, and they're CHEAP! Cheap cheap cheap! With budgets cut, plans of $2500/ea p25 radios are out the window. Those scanners won't do these.

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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:45 pm

I'm not calling you a liar, and maybe I am just ignorant, but what public safety agency is using MotoTrbo? Sorry I don't consider Dog The Bounty Hunter public safety. :lol:

MotoTrbo is designed for business use and none of Motorola's Astro series (APX/XTS) radios are capable of operating MotoTrbo. In fact this has caused some issues out here when a local community college switched their operations from analog to MotoTrbo. The college police was still on the multi city / multi agency Type II SmartZone system, but they could no longer communicate with rest of the school since none of the school radios worked on the SmartZone system, and none of their XTS radios could operate MotoTrbo.

Yes there are a lot of digital systems out there that operate on other protocols, DMR, OpenSky, NXDN, etc, and yeah you might want to scan them, but the few PS agencies I know of that operate digitally on anything other then P25 are migrating off of them.

Then again maybe I don't know what the hell I am talking about, so please set me straight. I know Las Vegas Metro operates (poorly) on an OpenSky system, but even they have conventional multicasts you can monitor on a conventional scanner.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:34 pm

nacho wrote:I'm not calling you a liar, and maybe I am just ignorant, but what public safety agency is using MotoTrbo? Sorry I don't consider Dog The Bounty Hunter public safety. :lol:
I'll give you one example for each.
MotoTRBO:Paulding County GA
NexEdge: City of Canton, Ga

Those are just local from the top of my head.
nacho wrote:MotoTrbo is designed for business use and none of Motorola's Astro series (APX/XTS) radios are capable of operating MotoTrbo.
Yet.

nacho wrote:In fact this has caused some issues out here when a local community college switched their operations from analog to MotoTrbo. The college police was still on the multi city / multi agency Type II SmartZone system, but they could no longer communicate with rest of the school since none of the school radios worked on the SmartZone system, and none of their XTS radios could operate MotoTrbo.
Hopes and dreams of an interoperable world went down the tubes when budgets were slashed.
nacho wrote:Then again maybe I don't know what the hell I am talking about, so please set me straight. I know Las Vegas Metro operates (poorly) on an OpenSky system, but even they have conventional multicasts you can monitor on a conventional scanner.
Some DMR is actually pretty good. If you take a look at Kenwoods Nexedge radios and get an opportunity to see how they work, I think you'd change your mind pretty quick about using it for Public Safety. It's actually pretty ideal. Like I said, agencies don't have the money to go P25 digital and interoperability will require analog patches and simulcasts for many years to come. But in the meanwhile aging systems need to be replaced and DMR fills that need rather well. In fact, a faster, more economical route to interoperability would be DMR. There's already an interconnected group of MotoTRBO ham repeaters from across the globe. I certainly wouldn't lump it all in with OpenSky.

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Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:55 am

Well my point about interoperability was that the college could interoperable without an issue with outside agencies back when they were running analog. The college PD could work with the Municipal PD / fire, and the college. Now the college PD can't talk to the college without installing Trbo radios in their cars.

I know a lot of people have been bitching at Motorola to make radios that can do P25 and Trbo, but I'm not holding my breath. The Feds have designated P25 as the FIO standard, I'm surprised agencies would go with Trbo and limit themselves.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:48 am

As far as not being able to afford P25, it was my understanding Federal grants are/were available to public safety agencies for digital systems but they had to operate P25. At least out here in Los Angeles almost every agency I can think of operates using P25 capable radios, even though only about 20% of them actually use P25. Almost every agency has pulled the "interoperability" card to get Astro 25 radios, even my local PD which operates on ONE conventional analog VHF frequency, recently switched over from MT2000's to XTS1500's simply so they could use the three LA federal interoperability frequencies that no one uses. The city had slashed their PS budget, but we still got new radios even though the old MT2000's will operate narrow band just fine.

Sorry if it sounds like I am trying to pick a fight, I am not, and I don't want to get too far off topic. I do not know what every one in the US is doing, and I may be looking at this thing with a total LA bias.8-) So please do not take this the wrong way, I really want to learn, especially if there are counties that are successfully operating on DMR systems. I am just confused as to why agencies would pass on grant money and not meet the federal standards.

Believe me I am not a P25 zealot, far from it. I work with a large agency that still operates 100% analog, on federally mandated P25 radios, and frankly analog works just fine. :wink:
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by bigmattdaddywack » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:37 am

Thank you Chris and everyone.

Why do you have to be so fucking smart Chris?
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by Stercutus » Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:28 am

Nearly everything within 100 miles of me is analog/ analog trunking. If I ever have to split the place I plan on going to is the same. If I go digital there is practically nothing to listen to. I believe that most rural areas are the same. They don't spend a lot of money replacing systems that already work just fine.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by crypto » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:13 am

bigmattdaddywack wrote:Thank you Chris and everyone.

Why do you have to be so fucking smart Chris?

It's the mutant power I received as a result of getting pushed around and beat up a lot in junior high.

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Or wait, I might have that backwards. :(


LOL, anyway, no, that was a lot of knowledge to try to figure out on your own, any time I can help ease the learning curve to someone new to radio, I'm more than happy to do it.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by zommoz10 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:11 am

Blacksmith wrote: I believe that most rural areas are the same. They don't spend a lot of money replacing systems that already work just fine.
I'm afraid that's not normally how it works.
Analog conventional systems (and even some analog trunking) worked well for all agencies and if it didn't it was more to do with site problems and old equipment. Rather than spend 10's of millions on new digital systems, they couldn't have just replaced the old equipment or improved coverage.

Government agencies love to spend money and they will spend money as long as they have it to spend.
Some, but not very many, said "our radio system works fine as it is, thanks but no thanks".
It helps to have vocal people in the community that are paying attention to the proposals and attending the meetings and voicing their opinions about spending that kind of money on something that isn't necessary.

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow: :arrow: :arrow:
nacho wrote:Well my point about interoperability was that the college could interoperable without an issue with outside agencies back when they were running analog. The college PD could work with the Municipal PD / fire, and the college. Now the college PD can't talk to the college without installing Trbo radios in their cars.
+++
It wouldn't be much different than the outside agencies switching to another band. MotoTRBO is capable of running analog and compatible with a number of trunking systems too. The college wouldn't necessarily have to get all new equipment, the outside agencies on the other hand would need to be listening on analog or tie the analog system in at the console.

nacho wrote:I know a lot of people have been bitching at Motorola to make radios that can do P25 and Trbo, but I'm not holding my breath. The Feds have designated P25 as the FIO standard, I'm surprised agencies would go with Trbo and limit themselves.
+++
Don't forget, there's more than one player in the game now. If Motorola/Vertex doesn't do what agencies ask for at the price agencies have to pay for it, someone else will. That's why I keep bringing up Kenwood.
nacho wrote:As far as not being able to afford P25, it was my understanding Federal grants are/were available to public safety agencies for digital systems but they had to operate P25. At least out here in Los Angeles almost every agency I can think of operates using P25 capable radios, even though only about 20% of them actually use P25. Almost every agency has pulled the "interoperability" card to get Astro 25 radios, even my local PD which operates on ONE conventional analog VHF frequency, recently switched over from MT2000's to XTS1500's simply so they could use the three LA federal interoperability frequencies that no one uses. The city had slashed their PS budget, but we still got new radios even though the old MT2000's will operate narrow band just fine.
+++
"were" being the operative word.
And grants still were not enough.
And the money kinda dried up when we were busy putting in radio systems in Iraq.
By the way, back in 06 or 07, the DHS published a report that analyzed the cost benefit of radio systems across the country. It was called the Interoperability Scorecard. Needless to say, most did not score highly in the interoperability department.
nacho wrote:Sorry if it sounds like I am trying to pick a fight, I am not, and I don't want to get too far off topic.
+++
Who's picking a fight? You're not coming across that way and I don't think the discussion has veered off topic either.
This whole thing started when multiple replies asked the OP what they want to listen to and a couple of replies warned what may be there today can be gone tomorrow. You asked me to expound and I was happy to do so.
nacho wrote: I do not know what every one in the US is doing, and I may be looking at this thing with a total LA bias.
+++
That makes sense cuz LA has bucked the trend of moving towards multi-million dollar 800mhz trunking systems like the rest of the country and kudos to them. A lot of problems could have been avoided if more agencies did what LA did.

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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by beheadtheundead » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:51 am

You can listen to a lot of digital police bands online if that's all your wanting to listen to. There are also a couple free scanner smartphone apps in the android market. Not sure if this helps.

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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:30 pm

zommoz10 wrote: It wouldn't be much different than the outside agencies switching to another band. MotoTRBO is capable of running analog and compatible with a number of trunking systems too. The college wouldn't necessarily have to get all new equipment, the outside agencies on the other hand would need to be listening on analog or tie the analog system in at the console.
+++
That makes sense cuz LA has bucked the trend of moving towards multi-million dollar 800mhz trunking systems like the rest of the country and kudos to them. A lot of problems could have been avoided if more agencies did what LA did.
Yeah this is one of the great things about Los Angeles, T-Band (which now congress is taking away) With the T-Band we get 450-512 where we can operate. So college business radio system goes in the 460 range and the SmartZone II system is in the 475 range, so it was really easy to interoperate using a simple high split Astro 25 radio. Part of the ill fated LA RICS plan was to get everyone PS in the county to be able to operate in the T-Band, and over the past decade or so that had been the direction everyone was moving.

There are really only two 800MHz systems in Los Angeles County, LA City Fire, which operates analog conventional and LA City (not LAPD) which operates an analog EDACS system.

About 75% of everything else is UHF. The 25% that is VHF is mainly people who are in the interface areas near the forest and have to operate with the USFS. These are usually smaller cities that have been on the same frequencys since the 80's. Also LA County Fire which orrigionaly operated on three VHF frequencies now have about a dozen conventional analog VHF command and Tac frequencies they use on the ground for local comms and interop. Frankly this ends up working really well in situations where Municipal Fire, County Fire, and USFS work together.

So what ends up working in LA County is you can talk to almost* every PS agency (across 88 individual incorporated municipalities) with an Analog VHF radio and an Astro 25 radio in UHF. The only exceptions are LACity Fire, the CHP which operate on Low Band VHF, and a few federal agencies like the VA that operate in 410-420. Even most major businesses operate in the 450-470 range so something like the security freq for a major mall could be in the codeplug for the local fire department. The only major business I can think of that aren't in the UHF business range are LADWP and So Cal Edison, which use 900MHz SmartNet/Zone systems.

I understand that most parts of the country haven't been blessed with the T-Band so interop either way means a trunk full of radios, I guess I forget I live in a county where one band is king :wink:
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by zommoz10 » Sat Jun 16, 2012 5:36 pm

nacho wrote: I understand that most parts of the country haven't been blessed with the T-Band so interop either way means a trunk full of radios, I guess I forget I live in a county where one band is king :wink:
A number of other major cities use (or used) the T-band too. NYC, Philly, Boston etc.

The T in T-band stands for television, as I'm sure you're aware and this was originally done in the big cities where certain television channels were sacrificed for more usable spectrum. That was done at a time where things like public safety were more important than selling off spectrum that's valuable to corporations in order to pay for tax cuts and other spending. :words: Meanwhile I don't know of anyone in public safety that thinks the LTE plans are a good idea, especially since the systems that many of these cities are using in the T-band are working just fine for them.

There was this idea that NYCs radio system was inadequate during 9/11. Under the same circumstances a digital system in a crappy band would have been worse and would have cost more lives.

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Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by nacho » Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:01 pm

Yeah, I understand how We got the T-band and many people, including myself feel it isn't going anywhere. I assume most people in congress have no idea what they signed, and hopefully the next congress will rectify the situation. Then again doing what makes sense isn't exactly congress' SOP, but the fact remains these few markets that use the T-band end up being about half the PS comms in the nation.

Just LAPD and NYPD combined are around 50,000 cops, and well over 50,000 radios.
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Re: Digital vs. Regular scanners

Post by Adam18 » Wed May 23, 2018 6:21 am

Hello,

I'm looking to buy a new digital scanner, but I can't seem to understand the difference between the two of them. Which one is the best digital that isn't over 500 dollars, and is there a link somewhere where there is a comparison between the two, or a better understanding of digital and Document management service providers?

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