During the Cyberspectrum Wireless Village talks a few days ago Gavin Rozzi gave a talk about his online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website at ocradio.live. Recently he wrote in and wanted to share a little more about his system. He writes:
[The talk focuses] on my experience implementing several open source software packages to create an online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website, https://ocradio.live/ that serves the part of New Jersey that I live in. Using multiple RTLSDR receiving locations, the site is demodulating, recording, and timeshifting multiple talkgroups of local and state trunked radio systems to create a live streaming service and archive of past scanner calls. Data from the site is also accessible over a REST API and we allow the creation of custom scan lists. My presentation is going to center on the advantages the site has over traditional hardware scanners and some of the technical challenges that we had to overcome to get the project off the ground.
Most police departments is the USA have now upgraded or are in the process of upgrading their radio systems to P25 Phase 2 digital radio. The frequencies can easily be received with an RTL-SDR, but a decoder is required to be able to actually listen to the voice. Software like SDRTrunk and DSDPlus can decode P25 Phase 1, but at the moment the only software that is capable of decoding P25 Phase 1 AND 2 is a program called OP25. However, OP25 has a reputation of being fairly difficult to set up as it does not have a simple to use GUI, and requires Linux.
Over on John's Tech Blog, John has uploaded a very helpful step by step tutorial that should help with those trying to get OP25 to work. The tutorial assumes that you have Ubuntu 18.04 already installed, and then starts from downloading and installing OP25. The next steps involve setting up OP25 for the particular system in your area, which mostly involves just editing a spreadsheet to input frequency data from radioreference.com. John also mentions that he's been able to get OP25 running perfectly on a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ as well, with less than 40% CPU usage.
In the video below John reviews some of the steps, and shows OP25 running and decoding voice.
Over on his blog John Hagensieker has uploaded a tutorial that shows how to set up SDRTrunk with RTL-SDR dongles. SDRTrunk is an application that allows you to follow trunked radio conversations, and decode some digital voice protocols such as P25 Phase 1. It is similar to Unitrunker and DSDPlus combined into one program. It is also Java based so it is cross platform and so can be used on Linux and MacOS systems as well.
John’s tutorial contains many useful screenshots, so it should be great for a beginner. He starts from the beginning, with finding trunking frequencies over on radioreference.com, then goes on to the installation and use on Linux. He also later explains how the Airspy can be used instead of multiple RTL-SDR to cover 10 MHz of bandwidth so that multiple systems can be monitored.
SDRTrunk is a cross platform Java based piece of software that can be used for following trunked radio conversations. In addition to trunk tracking it also has a built in P25 Phase 1 decoder. Compared to Unitrunker SDRTrunk is an all-in-one package, and currently it supports most trunking system control channels, but unlike Unitrunker it still misses out on some systems EDACS and DMR.
Over on his YouTube channel AVT Marketing has uploaded an excellent 6-part video series that shows how to install SDRTrunk and the Java runtime environment on Ubuntu Linux. The sections covered include, installing Java, setting the Java environment variables, installing other SDRTrunk prerequisites such as Apache Ant and the JMBE audio codec for decoding P25, and finally actually using and setting up SDRTrunk. Like all of AVT’s other videos, this is an excellent tutorial that takes you through the entire process from the very beginning so is useful for beginners as well.
Java JDK Install for SDRTrunk on Ubuntu Linux
If you’re new to trunking: Trunking systems are typically used with handheld radio systems (e.g. those that police, security guards, workmen etc carry around). The basic idea is that each radio constantly listens to a digital control channel which tells it what frequency to switch to if a call is being made. This allows the frequency spectrum to be shared, instead of designating one fixed frequency per user which would be very inefficient. But this system makes it difficult for scanner radios to listen in to, because the voice frequency could change at any time. Therefore software like Unitrunker and SDRTrunk which can decode the control channel is required. In addition many new systems use digital audio like P25 or DMR which requires digital decoders like SDRTrunk or DSDPlus.
APCO P25 is a digital voice signal and is commonly used like public safety departments such as police and fire. With an RTL-SDR and the open source Linux based OP25 decoder these signals can be decoded, assuming they are unencrypted. Software like DSD+ can also be used, but OP25 can supposedly decode more systems. Before the RTL-SDR, hardware scanners like the $~360 USD Uniden BCD996T digital scanner radio were typically used.
Over on YouTube user Rob Fissel has uploaded a video showing a comparison between an RTL-SDR using the OP25 decoder and a Uniden BCD996T. Both radios are used to decode a weak P25 Phase 1 LSM signal. He uses a Scantenna antenna with an antenna splitter to run both radios at the same time. His results show that even though the constellation is poor, OP25 does a good job at decoding the signal and producing voice, whereas the BCD996T doesn’t even manage to hear the control channel.
The latest version of Digital Speech Decoder+ (DSD+) has just been released, bringing it up to version 1.071. There appears to be no changelog, so we are unsure as to what is new, but one obvious change is that they now include a new program called FMP which is a simple NFM demodulator, similar to rtl_fm, although it does have a GUI with point and click tuning. FMP can be used as a replacement for SDR# or similar software, and is especially useful to use on low end devices such as netbooks.
An active discussion on the latest release of this software can be found in this thread on the RadioReference.com forums.
DSD+ is a Windows program which can be used to decode and listen to digital voice protocols such as D-STAR, NXDN4800, NXDN9600, DMR/MotoTRBO, P25 Phase 1, X2-TDMA and ProVoice with an RTL-SDR or other radio. On some DMR systems you may also be able to use the included LRRP software, which allows you to view the GPS locations of broadcasting radios. The last major release was version 1.05.
The DSD+ team are now also offering a “fast lane” early access program, which for a small donation will allow you to have early access to new and upcoming DSD+ features. They aim to release a new update to donators every 7 to 30 days, while stable public releases will continue to be released every 4 to 6 months. The donation costs $10 for one year of early access, and $25 for lifetime updates. Some features they are currently working on include:
Over on YouTube user jdlucas78 has uploaded a video showing a P25 LSM modulated digital voice signal being decoded by the Osmocom OP25 software for Linux. Although DSD and DSD+ can decode P25 voice, it seems that the Osmocom OP25 software is better at decoding P25 signals as it implements better error correction algorithms.
Over on the RadioReference forums there is a thread discussing the use of the OP25 decoding software which can be found here. There is a post in the thread that shows an easy Linux install procedure for the OP25 software.
Monitoring a Trunked P25 LSM Simulcast System w/ OP25 and RTL SDR Dongle
Take 2: Monitoring a Trunked P25 LSM Simulcast System w/ OP25 and RTL SDR Dongle
Note: This post is now old (written in 2014). As of mid 2015 the latest version of DSD+ can be downloaded from www.dsdplus.com. Also note that in 2015 DSD+ changed their version numbers for some reason, so 1.5 is actually older than 1.1.
Version 1.5 of Digital Speech Decoder Plus (DSD+) has been released. DSD+ is a popular Windows software tool used for decoding digital speech such as P25 with the RTL-SDR. The latest version comes with a simple GUI interface that has an event log that shows call target and source ID history and an audio waveform plot which can help determine if DSD+ is receiving audio correctly. This version of DSD+ has the ability to decode the following protocols.
P25 Phase 1
In addition to the above, the new version comes with an LRRP decoder and display program which should allow you to see on a map the GPS location of broadcasting radios.
DSD+ V1.51 can be downloaded from this link (UPDATE: dead link, use www.dsdplus.com now). The forum thread on RadioReference where the developer releases and discusses the DSD+ software can be found here.
This version of DSD+ comes with all the files needed to make it run already. To use DSD+ V1.5 simply extract the zip file into a folder and double click on DSDPlus.EXE. DSD+ will listen to your default audio device that is set in the Windows sound recording properties. Simply tune to a digital voice signal in SDR# or any other SDR receiver and set the output audio settings accordingly. To start the LRRP display program simply open LRRP.exe.