Over this past weekend, N6DZK and K6GMG made the trek to the W6GGF VHF site and performed a complete system upgrade, and also installed a GMRS repeater for local community CERT operations.
The change to the VHF repeater has been in play for some time. The existing system, as close as I can tell is over 20 years old. The PL discrimination had essentially failed, allowing the repeater to suffer from interference being repeated through the system by any signals strong enough to break squelch. The Maggiore Electronic Labs (Which ceased to exist as a company some time before 2012), Hi Pro repeater has been very noisy over the past few months.
The existing controller, the RLC DSP-404, also had its own issues. It was a discontinued system, no longer supported, with buggy software that contributed to the introduction of some programming errors that were annoying at the minimum. There were also no longer any members of the club that had knowledge of the original programming. This meant that we could not make programming changes, or properly support linking the UHF and VHF sites together, among other things.
So out with the old, and in with the new!
An Arcom RC-210 is the new controller, matched with a brand new, commercial grade, Kenwood NXR-710 VHF repeater/radio. The existing duplexer cans were working just fine and incorporated into the the new system. The RC-210 controller is very much still in production, with a very active user base and support community, as well as a responsive manufacturer just a phone call away with a great reputation in our hobby. In addition, several other repeaters in the area use the same controller so we can reach out for questions or support from others locally if needed.
Future expansion includes the addition of IRLP and Echolink, and we will have a stand-alone Allstar node that will become the VOIP connection from the VHF site to the UHF site.
The site also has a newer 150Ah lithium iron phosphate backup battery which will provide approximately just under 2 days of operation in the event of local power failure. We may add a small solar panel in the future to stretch that capacity even further.
That is all just for the amateur radio side of things. We have also now added a GMRS repeater. GMRS has grown in popularity over the past few years. And in that time, some really nice radio gear has come into the market. Wouxun for example has released some very nice, high quality, super-het design radios with all the quality and features you would expect from higher end and amateur radios. This new systems is specifically to support South County CERT programs. If you are part of Gilroy or Morgan Hill CERT look for announcements in the near future about this great new resource.
I hope you all enjoy the quality of the new repeater. The audio quality is a marked improvement and users that have tried the new system report increased sensitivity. Another thing you may notice is the new courtesy tone so it will be easier to diffentiate our repeater from others when you are listening as many of the same voice prompts now. More improvements to come!