Rangecast FAQ
[FAQ-1228] Configuring a scanner for a manual survey


Page Type: REFERENCE


SUBJECT

Rangecast scanners contain two separate programming configurations, one used for normal reception, and another used for conducting signal surveys. It is possible to manually switch a scanner temporarily from using the normal programming to the survey programming, for conducting an informal signal survey by listening to the scanner directly.


BACKGROUND

Scanners in Rangecast contain two separate programming configurations.

STANDARD PROGRAMMING: This is the programming scanned during normal reception, when the scanner is participating in the Rangecast network. Channels are received from specific receive sites, and for talkgroups, through specific trunking broadcast towers. This is intended as an optimal configuration chosen after surveys that measure signal strength and determine which towers carry specific talkgroups.

SURVEY PROGRAMMING: This is the programming used to conduct signal surveys.

Conventional: The survey programming will scan up to 1,000 conventional channels. This is limited to conventional channels selected for reception through this originating hub -- conventional channels not marked for reception anywhere in this hub will be ignored. But it does not matter which feed site a channel would be received from in the standard programming, the receive site selection for the standard programming does not apply to the survey programming. Instead, all conventional channels will be included in the survey programming, to a maximum of 1,000 channels (if there are more channels, the most distant are omitted.)

Trunked: The survey programming will scan up to 44 trunking towers, receiving all transmissions broadcast on these towers on any talkgroup (it does not matter whether the active talkgroup is even selected for reception in the standard programming, the transmission will be received anyway.) This is limited to trunking systems with at least one talkgroup marked for reception in the standard programming -- if no talkgroups are marked for reception, then the trunking system will be entirely ignored. In the survey programming, it does not matter which specific talkgroups are marked for reception in the standard programming, or which towers they are set to be received from, or through which receive sites -- none of those details affect the survey programming. The survey programming will scan all talkgroups broadcast on all trunking towers within 75 miles of the receive site, to a maximum of 44 towers (dropping the most distant towers if this limit is exceeded), excluding trunked systems with no talkgroups selected for reception from anywhere in this hub.

Reasons for using the survey programming:

There are situations where the survey programming may be more useful than the standard programming.

For example, you may want to listen to radio signals over the scanner while positioning an antenna, for the realtime feedback about reception quality. The standard programming can be used for this purpose, but will be limited to channels already designated to be received from this scanner, and (for trunked talkgroups) as received through a specific broadcast tower. The survey programming provides a broader window into radio conditions, without the use of the optimizations applied in the standard programming that focus normal scanning on specific channels (and for talkgroups, specific towers.)

Also, since the survey programming will detect all talkgroups on trunked systems (not limited to talkgroups selected for reception), the quantity of traffic is usually higher than in the standard programming, which may result in faster feedback about the quality of reception of trunking towers.

Another application is if you are curious about general reception conditions from a scanner on all channels. Since the survey programming includes more channels, listening to the scanner through the survey programming will give you an opportunity to hear everything that can be received, regardless of how that traffic has been designated for reception in the standard programming.

(With the caveat that conventional channels not marked for reception anywhere in the standard programming, and trunked systems with no talkgroups marked for reception anywhere in the standard programming, will not be received in the survey programming. It is assumed that this traffic is of no interest, and the scanning process would be slowed by taking the scanner through the additional broadcast frequencies.)


METHOD

To switch a scanner into the survey programming, on the feed site PC, enter the following command into the small text box in the lower-right corner of the sender connected to that scanner:

qk=s

... then press the Ping button.

Channels are organized in the scanner's memory in groups called "quickkeys", and the "qk" command references this feature. The value "s" refers to all elements of the survey programming. To receive only the trunked or conventional portions of the survey programming, you may use (respectively)

qk=t
qk=c

DISPLAY FORMAT

During scanner reception, the channel display on the front panel of the scanner will identify traffic in this format:

Conventional channels:
Line 1) "RC-SURVEY CONV"
Line 2) site ID
Line 3) channel ID from the national database (e.g. C123456) then frequency

Trunked channels:
Line 1) "RC-SURVEY" followed by the tower ID from the national database (e.g. L12345)
Line 2) type of system (e.g. Motorola, EDACS, P25) followed by system ID (e.g. S12345) from the national database, then the tower ID (e.g. L12345)
Line 3) talkgroup ID

This format uses ID codes that require interpretation, but the format is designed to unambiguously identify the specific channel being received, and for trunked systems, which tower the transmission it is received through.

Standard names would not work in this format, because the names can be ambiguous. For example, two systems, towers, or channels could begin with the same 16-character sequence, which is all that can fit on some models of Uniden scanner.

Channel ID codes can be found in the Rangecast programmer, channel list. System and tower ID codes can be found in the Rangecast programmer, trunking tab. A complete list can be found in text format on the status page, on the survey tab, or on the RCHAN file for the feed site (feed site tab.)

FOCUS ON SPECIFIC TOWERS

You may also restrict the scanner to specific trunking broadcast towers. To do this, you must determine the specific quickkey number associated with the tower(s). This is usually available on the status page - control channel survey section. Find the most recent row with information for the reception condition of a tower from this feed site, and read the QK number shown on that row. The value is between 51 and 98. Then you may enter this as a command on the sender, e.g. for the tower with QK 53:

qk=53

... or if you want to test multiple towers, enter all the numbers separated by a dash (no spaces or commas), e.g.

qk=53-57-62

FINDING QK NUMBERS

Be aware that when the scanners are reprogrammed, the QK numbers may change. Therefore, if the programming has been saved since the most recent control channel survey row describing this scanner/tower combination, be aware that the QK number shown on that row may not be accurate. (However, the QK numbers should only change if a trunking system has been added or removed from the hub's scan list, or if a tower has been added or removed from the national database describing trunking systems. So in most cases, the QK numbers will not have changed.)

Alternatively, you can also determine the QK number from looking at the survey programming for that receive site. This is available on the status page - Feed Sites tab on the navigation bar, then choose the RCHAN link on the row corresponding to that feed site number. Move down the text file to the rows that include the text RC-SURVEY. Tower names are shown in the right column, and correspond in sequence to QK numbers starting at 51. (Note: QK values 60, 70, 80 and 90 are skipped, so the tower after QK 59 will be QK 61. This is for simplicity in describing how to manually use the scanner's front panel interface to access these towers, because of a small complexity accessing QK values that end in zero.)

FOCUS ON CONVENTIONAL CHANNELS

The survey programming for conventional channels is on QK 99, and this may be mixed with one or more trunking towers, e.g.

qk=53-99

(note: that will receive only the trunking tower at quickkey 53 and the conventional survey channels; the dash between two numbers does not indicate range limits, and this is NOT a command that includes all intervening numbers, e.g. 54, 55, 56 ... will not be received, only 53 and 99.)

RETURNING TO NORMAL OPERATION

To return the scanner to normal operation, you may enter this command:

qk=0

... or simply stop and relaunch the Rangecast software.

NOTE ABOUT FIELD WORK

While the scanner is using the survey programming, you may disconnect it from Rangecast if you need portability during your manual survey work. The scanner will continue to scan the same signals while disconnected from the PC.


EXPECTED PROBLEMS

Transmissions received while using the survey programming will not be carried through to the Rangecast player. However, individual transmissions are recorded, and can be accessed individually through the status page.


Rangecast FAQ - ID 1228 - last updated 31 October 2018     Images shown - [block]