Back to Home
Radio Site Equipment Installation Rules
These rules have been derived from experience gained in over 30 years in two-way radio.
Originally by Doug Pelley WB7TUJ, edited by Michael Morris WA6ILQ
Editor's Note from Mike WA6ILQ: Over the years there have been a few requests by
members of the Repeater-Builder@YahooGroups mailing list for a radio site rules list.
A while back I was made aware of a web site belonging to Doug
Pelley WB7TUJ, who operates a commercial radio site east of Phoenix, Arizona. With
Doug's permission, I have copied his "Radio Site Equipment Installation Code" web page,
made his requirements generic, and added a few that I learned by experience... for
example: On item 5B, I can show you a rack at a mountaintop site that has a contact
sheet listing 4 people. Three have been dead for at least five years. All the
phone numbers show an area code that I can recognize is two splits old.
Items 4C and 4D below are directly applicable to Doug's site, but I have left them
in since they are descriptive of how things have changed in the business, and as an
example of site-specific differences.
Motorola has a 350 page manual called "Standards and Guidelines for Communications
Sites", commonly called the
"R56 Manual", also known as the "Fixed Equipment Installation Instruction Manual".
If you are interested in putting up a radio site, it's worth buying a copy (the
printed version is part number 6881089E50, and there is also a CD version, part
number 9880384V83. The price in early 2005 for the paper version was $118
if you don't have a Motorola account, $85 if you do (plus shipping). The CD
version is about $65. Honestly, you'll want the paper version, although the
CD is handy to do word or topic searches (but they don't give a discount if you
order both). Yes, $85 to $120 is a lot for a manual, but if you stop and think
for a minute about how much you are going to spend on building a site, with architects,
engineering, tower cost, tower installation, building materials, construction labor,
fees, etc, the cost of the book is down in the noise level. This book is a
large ring binder with many exhaustively-covered topics. While it is written
primarily as a how-to manual for cellular telephone installations, it also addresses
two-way radio sites. It covers such topics as site acquisition, handling
neighbor resistance, environmental issues, political issues, easements, surveying,
civil work like roads, fences, buildings or shelters, towers and the like.
All in all, it is an extremely valuable reference.
Here's the R56 Manual (2005).
If you're a renter, it's still worth spending an hour or two reading how the
professionals do it right the first time. GE has their own information package in
LBI-39148B "Standards For Site Construction/Contrac-Install", LBI-39179B "Fiberglass/steel
Comp and Lightweight Comm Shelt", LBI-39184A "Concrete Shelter Specifications-Bullet
Resistant", and LBI-39185 "Tower Requirements and General Spec - Installation".
The GE LBIs can be downloaded from this web site.
Note that tower sites are regulated by both the FCC and the FAA. The
geographic location required by the FAA is done to the hundredth of a coordinate
second (which is about a foot), whereas the FCC is a bit less strict at 1/10 of a
second. Make sure the geographic coordinates on your license are correct
(borrow a GPS and take it to the site and do a sanity check), the FCC will hold
you and your license liable even if you, the renter, can prove in writing
that the landlord gave you the wrong information. There have been cases
where the coordinates on a license were as much as five miles away from the actual
site, especially if the site was originally constructed in the 1950s or 1960s.
More on this topic at this web page: Where
is my repeater?.
Again note that the list below is only intended as a sample, to let
you know what type of rules that can be expected. Every site is different,
and some sites have unique rules: I am aware of one site that the only access is
through a cattle ranch pasture (private property). If a site visit is needed
the trip has to be coordinated via telephone at least 24 hours before with the ranch
owner so that the cattle can be moved, the gate(s) can be unlocked and those
restrictions are written into the site agreement. Another site is accessible
by only one road that goes right through a ski resort, and after first snowfall the
road is completly blocked until the snow melts in April or May... in fact one of
the most popular ski runs goes right over the site road. The only site access
during ski season is via snowshoe or snowmobile, and all work that cannot be done
via snowshoe or snomobile access (i.e. tower work) has to be done off-season.
And they stretch the ski season as far as possible (early and late) with manmade
snow.... and look very unkindly to anyone messing up their pretty slopes with
If anybody has any suggestions on this page please let Mike WA6ILQ know - email
at (callsign) at repeater-builder dot com
Here's the same document from a different site manager / radio site, and this
one has some significant differences:
And there are some comments on sites on this page.
EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION RULES
These are the Site's Minimum Requirements
Specific tenants may have unique requirements and their lease may be different.
1. EQUIPMENT MOUNTING:
- A. Each rented rack space allocated in the building is based on the space
required for a standard 19" wide rack space. Tenants may lease multiple
adjacent rack spaces under a single contract. The actual floor space
allowed per leased rack space is 24" X 24" (a square of four 12" floor
tiles). All equipment, whether actually rack mounted or housed in
a cabinet, shall not exceed these measurements. Ventilation of equipment,
battery boxes, power and RF transmission lines are to be taken into consideration.
- B. The rack or equipment cabinet is to be securely mounted to the floor
to prevent such equipment from being tipped over accidentally while someone
is working in front or behind such equipment, or by an earthquake. Be
aware that as part of the final inspection the site manager is going to do
a "lean test" and try and slide the rack, or to tip the rack or cabinet
over. No cabinets with casters (even the locking type) or wheels
- C. Cabinets are not to be stacked on top of other cabinets without securing
the top cabinet to the one below. If the lower cabinet is not owned by the same
tenant, then written permission must be gained from the lower tenant prior to
drilling or mounting to the lower cabinet. See the "lean test" mentioned
- D. All racks / cabinets will be secured electrically to the
earth-ground provided in the building. This is to be accomplished
using heavy copper braid, or a minimum of #4 stranded copper conductor. If
insulated, standard electrical grounding codes require it to be solid green or
green with yellow stripe(s).
- E. All RF transmission cable will be routed neatly, and secured in the
provided overhead cable trays. Excess cable is not to be coiled
up in the cable tray, nor is a coil to be strapped to the bottom of the tray.
- F. All transmission cables shall be bonded to the tower at the top, bottom and
every x feet down the feedline (whatever the manufacturers specification is for that
feedline), and terminated with a "Huber & Suhner" or "Poly-Phaser" lightning arrester
unit upon entry to the building. Jumper cables, from transmission lines to individual
racks or cabinets, will be run to equipment racks or cabinets through the cable trays
neatly and kept as short as reasonably possible. There will be no coils of feedline
in or strapped under the cable trays.
- G. No equipment is to be set on the floor around the rack or cabinet space,
with the exception of duplexer cavities or transmitter-combining equipment,
which will occupy the next adjacent rack / cabinet space. All
cavities / combiners should be mounted into a cabinet whenever
- H. All transmission lines will be identified with a color code sequence
assigned by the site manager, for example, red-green-yellow-blue. Home
Depot and electrical contractor suppliers sell electrical tape in multiple
colors, sometimes called "phase tape". The feedline end at the antenna
will have the color code applied to it next to the connector but outside of any
protective covering applied to the connector, secondly just outside the
building wall at the feedline entry point, and thirdly just inside the
building wall at the building feedline entry point. A fourth set
will be on the jumper cable at the point of entry into the equipment rack
or cabinet. This allows someone to identify the color code at the
antenna (even from gound level with a telescope or field glasses) and follow
the cable to the entry point and then to the proper rack. A color
code versus building tenant / equipment owner versus rack number list
is on the clip board hung on the inside wall next to the door and must be
kept up to date. If someone observes a problem with your antenna
or feedline the color code allows easily lookup on the chart, or tracing
to your cabinet and the contact information provided there - see item 5B
- I. NO FUNNY CABINET KEYS! Both the site managers and site owner
have the common Motorola 2135 and 2553 keys, the General Electric BF-10A and
1000GE keys, the MRCA key, and the CH-751 key. We have not had a
problem with anyone touching someone elses equipment so there is no need
for changing the lock on your cabinet, or even having lockable cabinets. In
fact open frame racks are very common in the buildings. Despite this, if
you chose to use a locking cabinet, make sure that it can be opened by one
of the standard six cabinet keys.
2. ELECTRICAL WIRING:
- A. All equipment connected to commercial power must have the standard
grounded three-prong plug, and the safety ground must be intact on the
plug. "Twist-lock" type plugs are required on the rack or cabinet
feeder as the outlets are mounted on the ceiling, facing downward.
- B. Outlet strips and outlet boxes used to operate several pieces of equipment
inside a rack or cabinet must be permanently affixed to the rack or cabinet and
the "green wire" bonding ground must be intact from the power panel through the
rack power cord, through the outlet strip or box (or all of the outlet strips
or boxes) all the way to the radio equipment frame. Expect the site
manager to test this on installation inspection.
- C. All backup batteries must be housed in a nonflammable box (or boxes) with
a lid. This will avoid accidental access to the battery terminals, and
will also contain any chemical leakage. All batteries should be kept within
the allocated floor space for that rack. Additional space for batteries
if needed will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Even if it's obvious
which rack they are hooked to, battery boxes must be labeled with the system
owner's name, the rack number, and the total string battery voltage and capacity,
for example "XYZ Ambulance Inc., Rack #14, 14 volts 80ah".
- D. Wiring from batteries to equipment must be neatly run, and any
connections to the batteries must be protectively fused as close to the
batteries as possible.
- E. All cabling and harnessing required for a given rack or cabinet will
be neatly tied, or dressed, to the specific rack; or in the case of cabinets,
all cabling will be neatly routed inside the cabinets. No cabling is
to hang or drape outside of the cabinet(s) and no coils may be strapped to the
overhead cable tray(s).
3. RADIO FREQUENCY TRANSMISSION:
- A. ALL LMR and PAGING TRANSMITTERS not equipped with a Pass-Notch duplexer,
will have an additional pass cavity installed to prevent spurious emissions and
minimize ambient RF noise to the other equipment installed at this, and adjacent
sites. An isolator is also required between the transmitter and the
cavity. There are to be no PA decks, isolators or circulators looking
directly into an antenna, even a temporarily unused one.
- B. All non-rigid cable used as jumpers between transmitters and transmission
line will consist of good quality cable such as Belden type RG-142, RG-213,
RG-214, or RG-400. Cables of the RG8X "Minifoam" and similar cable will
NOT be allowed, as these cables do not meet required shielding specifications
for use as transmission cable. Single shielded cable may be used for
"receive" purposes only.
- C. All cabling from the building to tower including on the tower
to the antenna, shall consist of a minimum of 1/4 inch jacketed corrugated
copper "Heliax" type cable. Semi-rigid "LMR-400", "LMR-600", etc.
cable and non-rigid cable, such as RG8, RG, 213, RG-214, RG8X, etc. will
NOT be used as transmission cable exiting the building. Unjacketed
cable of any type will NOT be allowed. All jumper cables from
feedline to antennas will be no more than 6 feet in length unless approved
by the site manager on a case by case basis.
- D. All RF connections to the antenna feedlines are to be kept waterproof
- E. All RF cables, from the tower to the building, must be terminated on
equipment of proper impedance, or if not connected to equipment then the cables
are to be attached to a termination load of proper impedance. RF cabling
un-terminated is impedance mismatched and will have the potential ability to
radiate inside the building and cause interference to other users.
- F. All transmission cables will have the outer shield bonded to the tower
every 25 feet down from the antenna. Each feedline will also be bonded
to the earth-ground provided when entering the building at the cable
entrance. "Andrew" type grounding kits are the preferred method
to accomplish this. This may also be accomplished using copper
braid with a minimum width of 1/2 inch. The braid is to be secured
to the outer conductor of the feedline by soldering to the conductor, or
by means of a stainless hose clamp of the appropriate diameter. This
connection is to be waterproof.
- G. All penetrations of the exterior walls for feedline will be done with the
written permission of the site manager. Once the feedline is installed
all holes will be plugged per the site managers directions to make them waterproof
and preclude all local wildlife from entering the building through the new
hole(s). If a tenant observes an unplugged wall breach s/he is urged
to plug it and notify the site manager.
- H. No transmitting antennas of any type are permitted to be installed inside
the buildings. Use common sense discretion when transmitting with cellphones
and hand held radios while inside buildings.
- I. No non-continuous duty rated transmitters are to be used in a continuous
- J. No transmitters without operational harmonic filters.
- K. Pressurized feedlines requiring a nitrogen cylinder shall have the
cylinder fastened to the cabinet in such a way that they can not be tipped
over. Alternatively the cylinder may be fastened to the wall next
to the feedline passthrough or under the appropriate cable tray using an
approved wall bracket system (with an intact, code-compliant and in-service
backup safety chain) and a nitrogen hose run through the tray to the injection
fitting. The cylinder valve or hose will be labeled as to which
rack / feedline it connects to, i.e. "XYZ Ambulance Inc., Rack
#14". The site manager will be consulted before the bracket is mounted
to the wall.
4. ANTENNA MOUNTING:
- A. All antennas are to be mounted on the tower structure in it's assigned
spot. No antennas will be mounted to the buildings without prior written
approval from the site manager.
- B. All antennas mounted on the tower structure shall be mounted using
commercially accepted galvanized or stainless hardware.
- C. No bare copper wire (of any type) on towers! It's simple chemistry. The
copper will eventually chemically etch the zinc out of the tower galvanization.
The tower will eventually rust where the copper touches it.
- D. All cables run on the older Broadcast tower structure will be secured
using stainless steel hardware or insulated wire.
- E. All cables run on the newer LMR tower must be secured to the cable
tray / ladder, using only the proper "Andrew" push in hardware
made for this purpose. No cables are to be run on the tower legs.
- F. Antennas are not to be installed or removed at the site without
prior authorization from the site manager.
- G. Antenna apertures (patterns) are not to be modified without prior
authorization from the site manager.
- H. The site manager must be notified of any “swapping” of radios to
antennas in multiple radio / antenna installations.
- I. All inverted antennas must be designed by the manufacturer for
- J. If a tenant observes an an antenna problem s/he is urged to be a
good neighbor and look up the color code on the feedline (see item 1H
above) and notify the responsible person(s) as well as the site manager.
5. DOCUMENTATION AND LICENSING:
- A. All tenants are required to have a current F.C.C. license
permitting transmission from the radio site prior to the installation
of equipment. Permission to occupy the site will not be granted
without prior hardcopy proof of proper license and correct / current
coordination. All transmitters are to have an up-to-date copy
of the FCC License for each transmitter’s frequency attached to the
specific cabinet or rack for inspection. This is an FCC
rule. Copies of all license updates and renewals will be
provided to the site manager, as well as being posted on the
appropriate cabinet. Systems whose posted license suggests
that they are unlicensed or expired will be powered down,
disconnected from the feedline, and the owner notified.
- B. Next to the license mentioned in item A must be a dated sheet of
paper listing all transmitting frequencies for equipment in that cabinet,
plus a minimum of three contact names and their associated phone numbers
(work, home, cellphone, pager, answering service, mother-in-law, etc...
whatever is appropriate...). The tenant is responsible for providing
a current copy of their contact list for the site managers office files and
keeping the contact information current on the cabinet due to the fact that
interference troubleshooting is not limited to just the site manager. A
no-notice contact test may be made at any time at the site managers or site
Yes, items A and B of this section mean that someone will have to mail
a copy to the site manager plus do a site visit to post a renewed license,
or just to change the contact sheet if a phone number changes or the
area code is split.
6. INSPECTION / ACCESS:
- A. All buildings and equipment will be inspected for compliance of this
installation and operation code by the site management at any time, especially
if necessary in the process of interference troubleshooting.
- B. All transmitters will be inspected to determine compliance of their
F.C.C. authorization (frequency, modulation and transmitter power output).
- C. All transmitting antennas will be inspected along with transmitter
output power to insure that maximum F.C.C. authorized ERP is not exceeded.
- D. Tenants understand that the site manager requires full access
to all areas including inside all radio cabinets, and inspections will
be made without notice as needed, especially in the case of interference
troubleshooting. Reminder: no funny cabinet keys!
- E. Should a specific transmitter be determined to be causing harmful
interference, the contact sheet on the rack or cabinet will be used and the
first person will be called, and when contacted be requested to shut off said
transmitter immediately. If the contact person cannot be located,
the second name will be tried, then the third. If transmitter shutdown
will be delayed the site manager will shut off said transmitter by shutting
off the circuit breaker to the appropriate cabinet if there is no other means
of shutting it off. As stated above, contact information on the rack or
cabinet must be kept current. Systems with battery backup must have a
clearly labeled and accessible transmitter shutdown switch. This switch
must shut down all transmitters in the cabinet.
- F. Tenants understand that the site buildings are alarmed and that
all access code usage is logged (entry and exit). Tenants understand
that that they are given a unique access code and are expected to keep it
confidential, and that they are responsible for all site access using that
code. Tenants may request an access code to be disabled and a new
code programmed once per year at no charge and are encouraged to do so in
the event of staff personnel changes, etc.
Back to the top of the page
Back to Home
This writeup is a joint project and is copyright © 2003 and the date of
last update by Doug Pelley WB7TUJ and Mike Morris WA6ILQ
This web page, this web site, the information presented in and on its pages and
in these modifications and conversions is © Copyrighted 1995 and (date of
last update) by Kevin Custer W3KKC and multiple originating authors. All Rights
Reserved, including that of paper and web publication elsewhere.