***NEW*** Tactical Repeater Lite.

After a few months and many design changes the new repeater is here.  Many people and groups have wanted something less expensive.  Here it is!  A fully functional 4 watt (2.5 watt to the antenna) repeater in a 30 caliber ammo can.  Just add an antenna and 12 Volts DC and you are on the air.  The internal radio modules are Part 90 type accepted for the business band and tune to the ham band too.  Check it out under our repeater section.

 

Apply for your own license: FCC form 601 tutorial.

For those who would like to get their own license for a tactical repeater, I just put together a tutorial that contains step by step instructions and a copy of a completed FCC form 601.  The completed application will license two Itinerate repeater frequencies and simplex talk around on the repeater pairs.

If you would like a copy, email me at info@tacticalrepeater.com and I will send it right out to you.  As always, we are here to assist you and answer questions.

Radio Encryption

OPSEC and COMSEC

Two key elements in Tactical Operations are OPSEC (operational security) and COMSEC (communications security).  Though quite different in overall meaning, both terms go hand in hand and you can not achieve one without the other.

OPSEC means the security of the complete operation.  Whether we are talking about security of a SWAT or SRT team, or the personal safety to Search & Rescue Team members, OPSEC is paramount.

COMSEC consists of securing your communications well enough that your internal communications can not be monitored.  Once you have achieved COMSEC you can feel free that any use of your radio communications gear will not effect OPSEC.  If at any time you feel your radio communications are vulnerable you have completely lost OPSEC.

Encryption

The only way to achieve COMSEC is through encryption.  There are different forms and security levels of encryption.  The basic rule of thumb is:  the more you spend, the better your encryption.  I will outline a few possibilities here, but first, a little background.

Radio Encryption Background

We basically have two types of radio transmission mediums:  1. Analog  and 2. Digital.  We have two types of Encryption: 1. Analog  and 2. Digital.  You can use both types of encryption in an Analog medium.  You can only use Digital Encryption if you use a Digital medium.

When we talk digital encryption, the length of the key code is listed in bits.  The more bits the more secure the code.  (have I lost you yet? 🙂  Keep in mind that once you choose an encryption format, all radios in your fleet must have the same encryption.

Analog Medium

Standard two way radio that has been around for years.  Repeaters are dumb and will retransmit whatever they receive, as a general rule.

Voice inversion encryption (analog encryption) is not very secure, but keeps scanners from listening.  There are plugin modules for some radios; it is built into some radio models as a stand standard feature.

Cost: $120.00 per radio

Rolling Code (analog encryption) is fairly secure, with 40 trillion code possibilities.  Available as a plugin module for some radios.

Cost:  $220.00 per radio

DVP, DVP-XL (digital encryption) is an older Motorola format in Motorola radios only.  Very secure, but lowered radio range.  Repeater also needs to be DVP capable.

Cost:  low on used market.  (No new equipment.)

Digital medium

The four main digital mediums today are P25, DMR, NEXDEN/IDAS and D-Star. In basic terms these are the common air interfaces (CAI) that enable the radios and repeaters to work together. You must first choose a CAI then choose an encryption format.

AES-256 encryption is the gold standard today.  Employed by most government and public safety departments using P25 today. It is supposedly fool-proof. But it was partially written by the NSA and is not open source.  (read:  “back door”)

You can buy AES options for most modern digital radios today.  Cost: $200 – $700 depending on the model of radio.

Kenwood/Icom have basic encryption included in their NEXDEN/IDAS format, or you can add AES.

Motorola Mototrbo DMR format has 13 bit and 40 bit included.  Hytera adds $220 for AES-256.

D-Star is primarily a Ham format so there is not a lot of encryption available.

As for me…

For the record, I use Mototrbo DMR with 40 bit encryption.  BUT I change the key very often and would change daily if needed.  What do you use?

Itinerant Frequencies

Itinerant: traveling on job; traveling from place to place.

The FCC has a pool of frequencies in the Part 90 section called Itinerant channels. These channels are perfect for a tactical repeater setup.

Advantages

A big advantage to Itinerate channels: there is no need to go through frequency coordination or incur coordination fees.  To receive a license, all you pay are the FCC regulatory fees of $260.00 for 10 years.  Yep, 26 bucks a year,  or $2.16/mo. You are licensed for low power (6 watt) anywhere in the USA.  Plus encryption is legal.

Licensing

To receive a license you fill out a FCC form 600, (if you get a repeater from us we will do that for you), pay your $260 bucks and you are good to go!

Business Need

Because the Itinerant channels are part of the Part 90 rule set, you do need to make a business need statement on the form 600.  For instance, say you have a few hives of bees and sell honey.  Your statement would be, “Licensee is engaged in the production of Honey.  Radios will be used to coordinate field personnel.”  Plus if you employ encryption, your conversations are totally private.

You can read more about Itinerant frequencies over at http://forums.radioreference.com/industry-discussion/242354-fcc-itinerant-licensing.html

The what, why, and how of Repeaters

What Is A Repeater:

A repeater is a two-way radio system that receives on one frequency and then re-transmits what it hears on another frequency at exactly the same time. It’s nothing more than a “dumb relay machine” with some really smart people behind it.

Why it’s needed:

Your handheld radio has limited range due to it’s antenna height with respect to the radio horizon. Repeater systems are placed on high points with large antennas and are used to “transfer” or “repeat” your transmitted and received signals to much higher elevations.

How Does It Work:

A repeater consists of a transmitter, receiver, duplexer and antenna. What is heard on the input frequency is simultaneously transmitted on the output frequency. The duplexer allows one antenna to operate in transmit and receive at the same time.

The key to good repeater operation is height. Can you see farther from the top of a hill or in the valley? The same is true with radio. By placing your repeater on a hill you can talk as far as you can see.

Frequency Band Pro’s and Con’s

Licensing, encryption, type acceptance and frequency bands.

I get asked all the time,  “What band is the best?”  Wow, what a loaded question!  When it comes to radio communications,  I can only answer that question with about 20 more question to develop the correct answer.

Under the present FCC laws there are 5 radio services and rule sets that apply to most business and personal communications.  Here I outline each Radio Service and highlight the pros and cons of each.

AMATURE (HAM)

Licensed as an individual, not a group or company.  License requires a test and some technical knowledge.  Multiple communications frequencies and formats available.  Encryption is strictly FORBIDDEN.  No type acceptance needed to transmit within the allotted HAM bands. Repeaters O.K. above 30 MHZ. Rule set known as Part 97. Part 90 Equipment can be used on these frequencies.

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service)

5 frequencies in the 150 MHz band.  Power is limited to two watts.  No License required.  No repeaters.  Rule set known as Part 95.  While encryption is allowed finding a radio that is Part 95 accepted that contains strong encryption is an issue.  Part 90 type accepted equipment can NOT be used on the MURS channels.

FRS (Family Radio Service)

14 channels in the 450 MHz band with a maximum power output of 500 milliwatts (1/2 watt).  No License required.  No repeaters.  Encryption is permitted but no equipment is offered with a strong encryption format. Only radios type accepted for FRS can be used on the FRS frequencies.  Part 90 equipment can NOT be used on FRS frequencies.

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)

Multiple channels in the 460 MHz band.  System license required.  Encryption is forbidden.  High power commercial radio equipment part 90 type accepted O.K.  Repeaters O.K.

PART 90

Part 90 contains the rule set for Commercial, Business Band and Public Safety and Itinerant frequencies.

Multiple channels in multiple bands.  Repeaters used in the 30,150,450 and 800 MHz bands.  Requires a System License and frequency coordination.  Encryption is a GO.   Licensees must make an eligibility statement to receive a license.  Only Part 90 type accepted equipment can be used on licensed frequencies.

LICENSING

The team at TacticalRpeater.com can assist you in your licensing and frequency coordination needs, please contact us and we can discuss the options that are available to you.  We have licensed Public Safety, Search and Rescue, Business, GMRS, and Itinerant users.  If it is Ham you are interested in, contact your local Ham radio club and see when they are hosting a testing session in our area, then talk to us about a tactical repeater.