Cumberland County, NJ appears to be joining the ever-growing list of public safety agencies planning to move to a 700 MHz radio system.
Cumberland County’s public safety agencies, including police, fire, and EMS, currently operate on a conventional VHF radio system with a couple of exceptions. The first exception is Vineland City, which operates its own 800 MHz Motorola trunked radio system for police, fire, EMS, and other city agencies. The second exception is Bridgeton Police. Bridgeton Police have traditionally also operated on conventional VHF channels, at least until fairly recently. Their radio system took a lightning strike back in July of 2016, and they began using a talkgroup on the 700 MHz statewide radio system (NJ Interoperability Communications System – NJICS) until their system was repaired. My understanding is that they have continued to make some use of the 700 MHz system following the repair of their VHF system.
What’s in the Works?
On September 15, 2016, the FCC granted Cumberland County a license for a trunked 700 MHz radio system. This license lays the foundation for Cumberland County to move operations to a new radio system. The license application included a Slow Growth, or Extended Implementation request. This allows the county additional time before their new system must be on-air.
The plan laid out in this Slow Growth request is as follows (Subject to change):
|1||FCC License Acquisition||May 2016 – March 2017|
|2||Site Acquisition||December 2016 – September 2018|
|3||Planning and Budgeting||June 2017 – August 2018|
|4||Infrastructure Build-out||August 2018 – February 2020|
|5||County Subscriber Migration||February 2020 – December 2020|
|6||Municipal Subscriber Migration||January 2021 – March 2021|
|7||Final System Acceptance||March 2021|
The Slow Growth request emphasizes that the county still needs to find funding for this project, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that has some impact on the dates laid out above.
The FCC license (Callsign WQYF895 ) currently lists six fixed transmitter sites and thirteen frequencies used at each of those sites. At this early stage, it is entirely possible that the fixed transmitter sites may change as the project moves forward, though the frequencies are probably more or less set.
So what does this all mean for anyone who is or may want to monitor public safety communications in Cumberland County, NJ? Well, if you’re one of those who is using an inexpensive scanner, enjoy it while it lasts. This new system will be a digital system, making use of Project 25 (P25) Phase II digital audio. More than likely, it will also make use of TDMA modulation. TDMA modulation is being utilized on many of the newer 700 MHz digital trunked radio systems. TDMA allows for two signals (digital voice streams) to share the same frequency at the same time by breaking the signals into what are known as time slots. This provides for more efficient use of the radio spectrum that is available. Less expensive scanners aren’t capable of decoding the digital P25 audio, and don’t understand what to do with a TDMA signal.
While users of the existing system won’t begin to move for some time still, it may not be too soon to begin thinking about a digital scanner. There are multiple brands and models available, and I’ll be posting a chart detailing which scanners will work for which areas in the near future.