AFRRCS FAQ #2: 7 Questions Regarding Radio Programming + Enablement

The implementation of the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System is already well underway, however many agencies are unclear as to the process and prerequisites required for AFRRCS participation. This is the second in series of three FAQ’s that provide some clarification on the key aspects of the AFRRCS application, adoption, and implementation process. The other two can be found here FAQ 1 and here FAQ 3.

1.) Which P25 radios can be used on AFRRCS?

The Province of Alberta has tested radios from several manufacturers and published a list of permitted radios. See this web site for the Permitted List.

  • Note: that all AFRRCS radios require P25 trunking software, which is typically sold as an option above and beyond the basic price of each radio. Other vendor-specific options may also be required for operation on AFRRCS or for the specific functions required by the agency.

2.) What prevents an agency from just buying P25 radios and getting them programmed by any radio vendor?

Radios cannot be programmed for AFRRCS nor will they be able to use the AFRRCS system unless the official processes are followed. A radio vendor is not able to program any radios on the AFRRCS system for any agency until they are given the unique programming key(s) for that agency. The key is created by the AFRRCS authorities and given to your Agency Administrator. Also, the radio will not be able to use the AFRRCS system unless their unique radios IDs are enabled on the AFRRCS UAS. The party who is programming the radios must undergo police and security clearances to work on the AFRRCS system. They also need to obtain programming software, cables and training specific to your radio models.

3.) What are radio programming keys?

The programming keys are small USB devices (dongles) used to restrict programming access of AFRRCS radios to authorized users.

  • All AFRRCS approved radio manufacturers use these keys.
  • The keys determine the level of access allowed when flashing or modifying a radio personality.
  • The AFRRCS team will hold the master or mother key from the radio manufacturer and that is used to create distribution or daughter keys for each agency.
  • The distribution/daughter key will contain the personality required by that agency’s radios including: allowed talk groups, allowed radio sites/towers, frequencies, encryption, range of radio ID numbers, etc.
  • AFRRCS will create and then deliver the distribution/daughter key(s) that is unique to each agency.
  • Radio vendors are not allowed to give keys directly to user agencies.
  • The Agency is responsible for the purchase of distribution/daughter keys and the control of their keys.
  • The keys are set to expire after 2 years, and then a new key must be applied for and purchased.

4.) How do I get the programming key(s) from AFRRCS?

  • Your agency needs to follow the AFRRCS sign up processes including all the steps leading up the Go-No Go meeting.
  • Once the AFRRCS team determines your agency has made all the necessary preparations, they will release the programming key(s) to your Agency Administrator.
  • The distribution/daughter key(s) must be purchased from your radio vendor, but they are distributed by AFRRCS.
  • Your Agency is responsible for the purchase of distribution/daughter keys and the control of your keys.

5.) Who is authorized to program and enable AFRRCS radios for my agency?

As part of the AFRRCS sign up process, your agency will appoint a trained and approved AFRRCS Technical Administrator who will manage technical issues related to AFRRCS equipment. The Technical Administrator will be authorized to log into the AFRRCS UAS to enable/disable your radios on the AFRRCS network. Programming of the radios is done by the Trust Technician. The Trust Technician must be well trained on matters concerning AFRRCS and your specific model(s) of P25 radios. The Trust Technician role could be performed by the same contractor who is the Technical Administrator.

6.) If my current radio vendor sells P25 radios, can they be my AFRRCS Technical Administrator?

Not unless that vendor first undergoes AFRRCS Technical Administrator training and are approved by the AFRRCS operating authorities. They may need to first undergo certain police and security clearances to access specific resources on the AFRRCS system.

7.) What does a vendor or contractor need to do in order to program and enable my AFRRCS radios?

Before they can program and enable any AFRRCS radio, the Agency’s appointed Technical Administrator and/or Trust Technician must first:

  • Undertake training on the AFRRCS system and its procedures.
  • Learn to use the Harris UAS system to enable and disable specific radio ID’s.
  • Be appointed by the Agency as the AFRRCS Technical Administrator and be registered with AFRRCS as a Technical Administrator.
  • Be given the radio programming keys specifically for your Agency .
  • Be granted the privileges to sign in to the AFRRCS UAS to enable radio ID’s.
  • Obtain police and security clearances.

The contractor also needs to possess the technical skills, experience, training and tools to perform the programming. This includes:

  • Certified training courses by the radio manufacturer(s).
  • Training on P25 technology.
  • Training on the AFRRCS systems, architecture, and procedures.
  • Programming software and cables for the specific radio models.
  • Preferably some experience programming similar P25 radios on similar trunked radio systems

I’d like to extend this opportunity to answer any questions you might have directly, and can be reached by filling out the form below. I look forward to hearing from you!

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