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Radio Smorgasbord

The intent of this CDE is to become familiar with various terminology and issues related to the operation of radio communication systems. I do not expect that ESDs will be radio experts but I do believe there is value in a basic understanding of how things work; for one, it makes it possible to recognize when they are not working properly. Sample everything on the smorgasbord, and answer the questions. Keep this documentation for future reference.

Frequency modulation
In telecommunications, frequency modulation (FM) conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its frequency (contrast this with amplitude modulation (AM), in which the amplitude of the carrier is varied while its frequency remains constant). FM is commonly used at VHF radio frequencies for high-fidelity broadcasts of music and speech (see FM broadcasting). A narrowband form is used for voice communications in commercial and amateur radio settings. The type of FM used in broadcast is generally called wide-FM, or W-FM. In two-way radio, narrowband narrowfm (N-FM) is used to conserve bandwidth. In addition, it is used to send signals into space.

An example of frequency modulation. The top diagram shows the modulating signal superimposed on the carrier wave. The bottom diagram shows the resulting frequency-modulated signal.


Abbreviation for megahertz. One MHz represents one million cycles per second.

Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of for example a filter, a
communication channel or a signal spectrum, and is typically measured in hertz. Bandwidth in hertz is a central concept in many fields, including electronics, information theory, radio communications, signal processing, and spectroscopy.

Radio propagation is a term used to explain how radio waves behave when they are transmitted, or are
propagated from one point on the Earth to another.

Attenuation is the reduction in amplitude and intensity of a signal. Signals may be attenuated exponentially by
transmission through a medium, in which case attenuation is usually reported in dB with respect to distance traveled through the medium. Attenuation can also be understood to be the opposite of amplification.

Electromagnetic interference (or EMI, also called radio frequency interference or RFI) is a (usually
unwanted input/output ripple) disturbance caused in a radio receiver emitted from an external source. The disturbance may interrupt, obstruct, or otherwise degrade or limit the effective performance of the radio. The source may be any object, artificial or natural, that carries rapidly changing electrical currents, such as an electrical circuit, the Sun or the Northern Lights. EMI can be induced intentionally for radio jamming, as in some forms of electronic warfare, or unintentionally, as a result of spurious emissions and responses, intermodulation products, and the like. It frequently affects the reception of AM radio signals in urban areas. It also affects cell phone, FM radio and television (not cable TV) reception. Although this happens to a lesser extent on FM than on AM, it can cause complete loss of effective radio communication in any band.

Refraction is defined as "...a change in direction of a wave as it crosses the boundary that separates one
medium from another."

Refraction explains the apparent "bending" of an object when it is partly immersed in water and viewed from above the surface.

Very High Frequency (VHF, 30 to 300 MHz): Communication is limited primarily to the direct wave, or the direct wave plus a ground-reflected wave. Elevating the antenna to increase the distance at which direct waves can be used results in increased distance of reception, even though some wave interference between direct and ground-reflected waves is present

Allocation of Radio Spectrum in the United States

30 km |

3 km |

300 m |

30 m |

3 m |

30 cm |

3 cm |

3 mm |

| 10 kHz

| 100 kHz

| 1 MHz

| 10 MHz

| 100 MHz

| 1 GHz

| 10 GHz

| 100 GHz


Visible Light

Frequency 10 kHz to 30 kHz 30 kHz to 300 kHz 300 kHz to 3 MHz 3 MHz to 30 MHz 30 MHz to 144 MHz 144 MHz to 174 MHz 174 MHz to 328.6 MHz 328.6 MHz to 450 MHz 450 MHz to 470 MHz 470 MHz to 806 MHz 806 MHz to 960 MHz 960 MHz to 2.3 GHz 2.3 GHz to 2.9 GHz 2.9 GHz to 30 GHz 30 GHz and above

Band Very Low Frequency (VLF) Low Frequency (LF) Medium Frequency (MF) High Frequency (HF) Very High Frequency (VHF)

Ultra High Frequency (UHF)

Super High Frequency (SHF) Extremely High Frequency (EHF)

High VHF Band Frequencies

155.880 154.295 154.785 155.310 154.445 155.370 463.000 155.280 155.235 155.505 155.535 154.665 154.695 155.265 155.205 158.865 Allegany County Sheriff Repeater Wellsville Repeater - High Band Allegany County Police Departments Allegany County Sheriff's Office Cuba Police Department Inter County Police - State Wide Jones Memorial Hospital - Med 1 Mercy Flight Air Ambulance Medical Transport Service State Police - Troop A Dispatch State Police - Car to Dispatch State Police - Car to Car State Police Emergency - State Wide Wellsville Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Wellsville Ambulance Repeater Wellsville Police Department

Low VHF Band Frequencies

46.36 46.22 46.26 46.44 46.46 46.50 45.92 45.20 45.88 45.44 45.52 Allegany County Fire - Main Dispatch Allegany County Fire - Freq. #2- Fire Ground Allegany County Fire - Freq. #3- Fire Ground Allegany County Fire - Freq. #4- Fire Ground Allegany County Fire - Freq. #5- Fire Ground Allegany County Fire - Freq. #6- Fire Police Allegany County Office of Emergency Services Allegany County Public Works (DPW) Inter-County Fire - State Wide Inter-County O.E.S. - State Wide Town Highway Departments

All radio applications may be split into one of three types of communication: Simplex communication; Duplex communication and half duplex communication

Simplex Communication



Simplex is the simplest type of radio communication. In simplex communication, there is a one-way communication between the sender or transmitter and the receiver. Simplex communications is nowadays mostly limited to broadcast applications. And example is radio pagers; they receive a signal from a transmitter but are not capable of transmitting.

Half Duplex Communication



In half duplex communication, two-way communication is possible, but simultaneous two-way transmission is not possible. A device capable of transmitting and receiving radio communication (transceiver) is used for half duplex communication. Only one party can talk at any one time as only one channel is available. The same channel is used for both transmit and receive directions of transmission and simply shared over time (first its my turn to talk and now its your turn). This is the simplest form of two way radio communication.

Half Duplex Communication (repeater) Freq 1 Freq 2

Freq 2


Freq 1

This is a variation half duplex where the transceivers all communicate through a repeater. This enables the transmission of a mobile unit to be rebroadcast from a base (repeater) that typically operates at a higher power and is located at a high elevation. Some times in car repeaters are used to boost the coverage of a portable radio by retransmitting it from the cars higher power mobile radio. It is important to note that only one unit can use a repeater at one time. If Unit 1 and Unit 2 are communicating over the repeater and in another location Unit 3 and Unit 4 wish to communicate they can not. Talk around frequencies are used for communication between units in close proximity in order to free up the repeater. If the repeater is out of service or not reachable from a given location Units can not communicate with each other even if they are in close proximity to one another the repeater is the link. The new sheriff radio system is a repeater.

Full Duplex Communication

Unit 1

Unit 2



For permanent two-way communication, duplex communication is necessary. Duplex communication allows communication in both directions at the same time. It requires two transmitters and two receivers, one transmitter and one receiver at both ends of the communication link. The common telephone is an example of full duplex communication both parties can talk and hear at the same time.

Skip / Tropospheric ducting and the like. VHF/UHF television and radio signals are normally limited
to a maximum "deep fringe" reception service area of approximately 40 100 miles (60 160 kilometers) in crowded radio markets, and about 50 percent farther in the absence of interference. However, providing favorable atmospheric conditions are present, television and radio signals can sometimes be received at hundreds or even thousands of miles outside their intended coverage area. These signals are often received using a large outdoor antenna system connected to a sensitive TV or FM tuner and/or receiver. (All of our towers)

Undesirable radio performance There are many causes for undesirable radio performance, they include
but are not limited to the following. Improper installation of or damage to antennas such as reuse of antennas from past installations, not having the most appropriate antenna, antenna mismatch, antenna trimmed to the wrong length, damaged / degraded cables, poorly installed cable terminators. Old radios as the radio spectrum becomes more and more crowded the bands are made more and more narrow and better filtering is necessary. Radios built more than 5 years ago were designed without the latest trends in mind. Sure they still work but??? Radios out of adjustment especially older radios must be maintained not just installed and used until the day that they dont work at all. Interference other radios cause interference and most people recognize that. What many people overlook is all of the causes for EMI or RFI such as damaged electrical systems (sparking transformers), large industrial building that have things such as welders etc. and things as simple as dry air plus wind equals static electricity which equals interference. Even properly operating electrical devices cause some level of EMI / RFI especially if they contain transformers or motors. Lack of realistic expectations it is not reasonable to expect a radio to function in a desirable way if you dont take in to account the need for professional installation, attenuation, interference, preventative maintenance, radio age and changing radio designs, attenuation, interference. (I know I said attenuation and interference twice thats how important and forgotten they are.)

UHF link radios. We connect to our remote fire radio towers (Cuba, Fillmore etc.) using link radios. When
you transmit a message on, for instance, the Fillmore tower, the voice signal goes from your microphone to the Zetron controller in the equipment room, from there to Corbin via microwave radio, it is transmitted on a dedicated UHF link radio from Corbin to Fillmore where it is, then, retransmitted on a VHF low band radio over the 46.36 MHz radio frequency. In the case of link radio failure at Corbin or catastrophic failure of the tower or building at Corbin, there is a backup link radio at the penthouse. Remember that if you tone using the link radio at the penthouse you must use the back up screen and manually select the tower.

The attenuation of radio signals becomes especially important as seasons change from winter
to spring and from summer to fall. Influences such as solar storms (sun spots, solar flairs), other forms of atmospheric attenuation, and troposphere ducting are especially prevalent at these times. Things that can effect radio wave propagation include; changes in foliage such as loss of leaves change in leaf shape (dead and curled up), dead mashed down grass, air humidity, barometric pressure, smooth / flat coat of fresh snow, electromagnet fields of the earth, damaged power lines (trees on them from high wind), and the list goes on. If you can imagine a situation that would cause a change the way light travels or is reflected you can bet that it will cause a similar change in the way radio waves travel. It is imperative anticipate non-typical radio operation due to these influences.

Use the online answer form to submit your answers to the following questions. 1. Do our radios work on AM or FM? 2. In what band is our fire dispatch frequency in the radio spectrum? 3. In what band is the sheriff repeater frequency in the radio spectrum? 4. Name a frequency it the UHF band that is commonly used in Allegany County? 5. Is a cell phone a radio? 6. What does Allegany County use the 154.445 Megahertz radio frequency for? 7. When a radio wave enters a storm front at a particular angle and changes direction, what is this called? 8. What is how radio waves behave when transmitted, a definition for? 9. Give a specific example of simplex communication used in Allegany County public safety. 10. Give a specific example of half duplex communication used in Allegany County public safety. 11. Give another specific example of half duplex communication used in Allegany County public safety. 12. Give a specific example of full duplex communication used in our dispatch center. 13. There is a time delay to bring up a repeater. If you begin to talk before the repeater is up, can field units hear the beginning of your message? 14. If two field units are 1500 feet away from each other and one or the other of them is out of range of the repeater, can they communicate with each other without changing to another frequency? 15. Name 3 causes of radio wave attenuation that are especially prevalent in the early fall. 16. While 800 is talking to you on the repeater, can 401 and 900 use the repeater to talk to each other? 17. If the Alfred link radio at Corbin fails, there is no way to transmit from the Alfred tower. True / False. 18. Seasons have little or no effect on radio wave attenuation or interference. True / False. 19. Are our radios narrow band or wide band? 20. How many MHz is the carrier frequency for the inter-county radio? 21. What band is the inter-county frequency in? 22. Which communication type do we use for most or our communication needs, simplex, half duplex or full duplex? 23. List a repeater frequency. 24. What does EMI stand for? 25. List a common source of EMI or RFI. 26. Describe a specific scenario in which attenuation and interference is a factor in undesirable radio performance. Example: A large man is sitting on his pager in a big cushy chair located in an interior room of his basement. While his significant other is using their 30 year old blender to mix a cake and he is performing scientific experiments using a Tesla coil, he misses the page of his ambulance company. Use your imagination, have some fun. 27. You attempt to tone Alfred Ambulance and find that you are unable transmit from the Alfred tower in the normal manner. Describe, step by step, how you would tone them using the penthouse link radio. 28. If you try the penthouse link radio to tone Alfred as in question 28 and are still unsuccessful, but all of your other radios work, at what location is the likely equipment failure and what is your next course of action? 29. Consider one of the common causes for radio wave attenuation in Allegany County. Relate a specific scenario where that attenuation causes undesirable radio performance. Do the seasons enhance this particular attenuation? Why or why not and how? 30. The usual.