Upcoming Gloucester County, NJ Radio System Changes

Repost (originally posted 11/28/15)

Gloucester County, NJ is currently in the process of upgrading their public safety radio system. These changes will affect your ability to monitor the police, fire, and EMS services in the county.

Background

The current system, operating in the UHF T band, between 450-512MHz has been plagued with interference issues primarily from TV broadcast stations in New England that use adjacent frequencies.  When band conditions are right, and signal propagation is enhanced, these TV signals affect the ability of units in Gloucester County to use the current radio system.  The effects can vary in severity, but it is my understanding that it has made communications impossible on more than one occasion.  It goes without saying, this is unacceptable for public safety communications.

So What is the Solution?

Gloucester County has been working towards a new radio system, using a different frequency range, which will not be susceptible to this interference.  The new system will utilize the 700MHz public safety spectrum.  This new system will be a digital trunked radio system, which will utilize X2-TDMA modulation.  Their current system is using conventional channels running analog FM signals.  The new system, when completed, will allow them to make better use of their licensed frequencies, as trunking systems have a controller that dynamically maps a talkgroup (ex. Fire Dispatch) to a frequency (507.7375MHz) only when a radio makes a request for air time.  Talkgroups can be thought of in the same way you currently think of channels.  Each channel currently occupies its own dedicated frequency.  Trunking allows many more talkgroups to make use of a smaller number of frequencies.  While I don’t know of any specific plans for Gloucester County, a system of this type may also allow encryption on some or all channels, either full time, or as needed, if the system owner chooses.

There are currently licenses in place for the new system to be made up of 9 tower sites.  These sites are located in: Gloucester Township, Williamstown, Newfield, Clayton, Bridgeport, Mount Royal, Mantua, Westville, and Swedesboro.  At least some of the sites have been turned on, and are transmitting the data control channel for the trunking controller, but the system is not currently in use, and the old system is still carrying all traffic.  The plan was to be moved to the new system by the end of 2015, but I’m not sure where they stand on that deadline at this point.

What Will This Mean for Scanner Listeners?

At the very least, you will need to program the new system in your scanner when it goes on air.  There will most likely be a period of learning and mapping out new talkgroups, and many radio and scanner listeners online enjoy the thrill of figuring out a new system, myself included.  So, as things come together, I’ll be posting updates here about the new system, who is on what talkgroups, what frequencies the system uses, etc.

Unless you have recently spent quite a bit of money on a scanner, you will probably also need to buy a new digital scanner, capable of decoding the X2-TDMA that this new radio system will use.  Examples of these would be the Uniden BCD436HP handheld, Uniden BCD536HP desktop/mobile, as well as models available from Whistler and some GRE models.  These scanners typically run $400-500.  I’ll be making a more detailed post about your options for a new scanner in the near future.

As always, when things start changing, you can bring your scanner to Dave’s Electronics (Radio Shack) in Pennsville, NJ to have it custom programmed to your preferences by yours truly.  They also carry a nice selection of scanners should you be looking for a new one.  So for now, keep an eye on this page for more information as I get it.

-Ryan

 

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