APCO Project 25

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Revision as of 14:46, 21 November 2013 by Chauffeur6 (talk | contribs) (Removed language that was speculative and opinionated; restored article to a more appropriate fact-based tone.)


APCO Project 25 Trunked Radio Systems are so named because they follow the open APCO Project 25 standard for public safety Trunked Radio Systems. Multiple vendors make and sell Project 25 systems and compliant radios. Audio on these systems is exclusively digital using the APCO-25 Common Air Interface (CAI) standard.

Motorola's implementation of the Project 25 digital trunking standard is marketed as "ASTRO-25."

Different Types of "Project 25" Trunking/Modulation

Project 25 uses the IMBE vocoder. IMBE stands for Improved Multi-Band Excitation, and was developed by DVSI Inc. Numerous vendors have produced Project-25 capable subscriber equipment, including Motorola, M/A COM, EF Johnson, Uniden, Racal, and others. There are conventional voice solutions as well as trunking solutions available for this digital voice solution.

Currently, there are two trunking solutions available that use the P25 IMBE vocoder:


This is a P25 non-compliant Motorola digital solution, and is also called the "ASTRO Digital CAI (Common Air Interface) Option". This is a proprietary trunking solution that uses the Project-25 vocoder as it's digital voice solution on top of a standard Motorola Type II Smartnet/Smartzone system. Some agencies using Motorola ASTRO IMBE systems include the City of Baltimore, the State of South Dakota, the State of Ohio, the Metro Washington Airports Authority, Fairfax County VA, and Sarasota County FL.

Project 25 Digital Trunking

This is the Project 25 Digital trunking solution that is vendor independent and designed around the Project-25 Digital Trunking standards. The State of Michigan, the State of Colorado and the State of Illinois (STARCOM21) are three of the few systems that use this format. This is becoming a more popular trunking format for new systems.

  • Project 25 Trunking uses a 4800 baud, 9600bps control channel.
  • All radios on a Project-25 Digital trunking system must use digital voice - no analog trunking capability is provided.

Project 25 Phases

Phase I is 4800 symbols per second - where each symbol encodes two bits of data for a raw bit rate of 9600 bps. Phase II is 6000 symbols per second where each symbol encodes two bits of data for a raw bit rate of 12000 bps.

Project 25 Phase I FDMA

Phase I FDMA consists of C4FM modulated signal or a CQPSK modulated signal. Both fit in a 12.5 kHz channel. Subscriber equipment transmit in C4FM. Site equipment may transmit in C4FM or CQPSK. Simulcast uses CQPSK modulation, however older Motorola ASTRO equipment used C4FM simulcast in a special mode called "WIDE pulse" which is not P25 compliant. P25 CQPSK Linear Simulcast Modulation is P25 compliant and is referred to as LSM. LSM is defined in the P25 standards.

Motorola X2-TDMA

Prior to the final Phase II standard being approved, Motorola developed and implemented their own TDMA protocol known as "X2-TDMA". X2-TDMA was implemented on the following systems:

Search the database for others.

X2 uses the same modulation as Phase 1.

Project 25 Phase II TDMA

The Phase II standard is a 2-slot TDMA signal that fits inside a 12.5 kHz wide channel. Modulation is similar to CQPSK. This allows existing 12.5 kHz wide license holders to double call capacity by upgrading their infrastructure to Phase II. The Phase II standard was approved in November 2010 [1], and as of August 2011 Motorola has begun shipping Phase II systems [2] [3].

These systems can operate in a mixed-mode configuration of Phase I FDMA and Phase II TDMA. If a Phase I only capable radio affiliates with a Phase II talkgroup, these systems are configured to automatically use Phase I modulation on the frequency.

Scanner Support for TDMA

Motorola X2-TDMA

Motorola's X2-TDMA protocol can be decoded by the GRE PSR-800 EZ-Scan Digital Scanner with the correct firmware (see the next section below). The two new Uniden scanners mentioned in the next section also support X2-TDMA.

X2-TDMA can also be monitored with DSD.

Project 25 Phase II TDMA

On November 16, 2013, Uniden announced the release of the BCD436HP and the BCD536HP. Both decode Project 25 Phase II TDMA. Delivery is scheduled for January 2014.

On October 13, 2012, GRE first released beta test firmware for Phase II TDMA support on the PSR-800, which was followed by the release of an updated beta firmware on October 22, 2012. The beta firmware was confirmed as working on a true Phase II TDMA system soon after it was released.

Project 25 Trivia

Conventional P25 systems don't support CTCSS tone or DCS code for access. Instead they use what is called a NAC. This is a 12 bit code that prefixes every packet of data sent (including voice packets).

For trunking, the control channel delivers an average of 40 trunking commands per second. These commands may carry caller or callee identifying information such as a radio id or talkgroup. Talkgroups are 16 bits - allowing over 65000 talkgroups. Radio ids are 24 bits - allowing over 16 million unique radios. To support roaming, radios are associated with two additional IDs - a system ID and a WACN. The system ID is 12 bits while the WACN is 20 bits - allowing for over 4 billion unique systems. Voice channels are identified in trunking commands by a 16 bit number. These 16 bits can be broken down into two pieces - a four bit identifier and a 12 bit channel number. The 4 bit identifier selects the appropriate bandplan. A bandplan is a simple algebraic formula for computing a frequency from a channel number.

Some P25 trunked systems, including many military 380 MHz systems, have WACNs that decode into a hint as to the system's name. The encoding of WACNs in these cases follows the "Guidelines to Assign Wide Area Communication Network and System Identities" document approved by the APCO Project 25 Steering Committee on April 6, 2001. For example, WACN 580A0 decodes to "NCR" (National Capital Region). A conversion application is available to decode WACNs and System IDs. The real intent of this encoding scheme is to generate unique WACNs and System IDs from a trunked system's license callsign.


Misc Information

  • Project 25 Interest Groups Homepage - General information on the Project 25 User Group Homepage. Downloadable PDF's and more.
  • Project 25 Overview - PDF Document with general Project 25 information.
  • Project 25 Discussion List -Yahoogroups mailing list dedicated to project-25 information.
  • The APCO International Web Site - This page is homepage for the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. They are the group that defines standards for Public Safety communications in the United States
  • The APCO Project 25 Homepage - Here you can find white papers and technical documents regarding the APCO-25 Digital public safety project - on the APCO International Web Site
  • Users Accelerate Move To Project 25 Systems, Technology - An APCO bulletin posted on the Motorola Web site. This outlines how many large Public Safety agencies across the U.S. have chosen APCO-25 compliant digital system for Public Safety communications. Gives examples of which agencies have made the switch, and which agencies are about to.
  • Motorola Encryption techniques - DVP, DES, Securenet, ASTRO, and Fascinator are all discussed here.
  • IFR's homepage designed to communicate the latest information regarding APCO-25 Digital Testing technologies. Much of the information here centers around the IFR 2975 Project 25 Service Monitor. Lots of good reference information here.
  • Interesting post - posted to Usenet regarding decoding APCO-25 digital signals. This was written by a college student who was developing an APCO-25 digital decoder as a class project. Although we never actually saw anything come out of this, the information posted is very useful none-the-less. Interesting Reading!
  • Digital Source Coding of Speech Signals - Great information on vocoders, and the IMBE Vocoder standard developed by DVSI.
  • IMBE and AMBE Speech Compression - [PDF] - Article describing the scientific theory behind the IMBE and AMBE Speech Compression Vocoders. From the Engineering Electronic Times.
  • Project 25 Data Representation


  • AMBE, IMBE, DVP, DES etc need linked to Wiki Pages.
  • WACN - Wide Area Communication Network Identifier