Motorola Astro questions

Sorry if this doesnt belong here, dont know where it would go.

I joined here to ask this question. I know NOTHING at all about radios. I volunteer for my local Sheriffs Office, and am responsible for buying all my own equipment. I also work for the USAF as a civilian contractor. We use Motorola XTS5000 Model 1’s for our portables, and Motorola Astro base station radios in our vehicles. This is all I know…MCSO also uses the XTS5000 radios for portables. Not sure on their vehicle radios, but I suspect they’re similar if not the same as the ones I use for my full time paying job.

I know the XTS5000’s are VERY pricey. Ive also been looking at getting a base station radio to put in my personal vehicle and having it programmed for MCSO. Heres a couple Ive been looking at

Motorola Astro Radio T99DK+131W


The are what we use in our vehicles for my paying job (atleast all outward appearances tell me they are). Why are these ones on Ebay so cheap? For $45.00 or so opposed to $700+ for a portable, something seems wrong here. Are these radios broken, a scam, wont work for what I want, or is there just some other reason base station radios are so much cheaper than hand helds?

Like I said I know nothing about this stuff. Just wanted to know if I could pick one of these up and have it programmed with my local Sheriffs Office for my POV. If I can get one for $50.00 and itll work, Ill pick one up right now.

Well let’s see…
I guess a good place to start is to address this area:

The XTS5000 and [Astro] Spectra radios you reference are part of Motorola’s top-of-the-line series of radios. The “ASTRO” denotes Motorola’s digital radios which for the most part are in line with P25 standards. When you dive into digital radio, especially Motorola P25, there is a lot of opportunity for error when purchasing your own handheld radio. The system that the Sheriff’s Department and USAF are designed to work with could be analog conventional (which is code word for basic two-way radio communication) but is most likely digital, digital trunking, or digital trunking with encryption :eek:. These ASTRO radios are not the type of radio you can buy online, even from an authorized dealer. When an XTS5000 or Astro radio is purchased from a Motorola dealer, the radio is spec’d out to the system specifications. Your county Sheriff’s Office has an elaborate setup of towers with repeaters, trunking networks, and/or voting sites that are programmed into your portable and car radios. The radios are purchased with special features or software packages called a “flashcode” which defines what features are shipped with what radio. Two identical XTS5000 radios (from the outside) can be capable of two entirely different system requirements. If you don’t know what you are looking for two things will happen:

  1. You spend way too much money on an XTS5000, XTS2500, or Astro radio only to find out it is not compatible with the Sheriff’s system or the USAF. Better yet, you learn the radio is only capable of analog (digital “ready”), now you’re really upset
  2. You find a radio for cheap (such as the eBay items) and pick one up to use for work. After purchasing the radio, you realize to program a Motorola upper-tier radio you need $300 software, you must sign an agreement with Motorola, you need a $200 RIB box, a $125 cable, and after all of that…the radio will not fit your bandsplit.

It’s a tuff world out there nowadays with Motorola ASTRO and upper-tier radios. It’s not worth the hassle to purchase your own. Find out more about the system your organizations are running and then we can better suggest a solution for you.

These radios could be cheap for a couple reasons. The radios you are looking at appear to be Motorola Spectra radios, NOT Astro Spectra Radios > notice Motorola’s key ASTRO title specifying a digital radio. The plain Spectra radio is not capable of digital operations, only analog. You also have to be careful with the bandsplit of the radio. Let’s say Sheriff’s Office talks on freq. 478.000mhz which is UHF (high) or in Motorola’s T-band. There are different bandsplits that Motorola sells their radios in, most noticeably UHF high (450-512mhz) and UHF low (403-470hz). If you purchase a radio with the wrong bandsplit you could end up with a piece of junk that you will have no need for.
The Spectra Radio (and even the ASTRO Spectra) is an older model by Motorola, which explains the drop in price over the years. It’s been at least 10-15yrs since Motorola sold the standard Spectra radio. The XTS5000 on the other hand is one of Motorola’s newest and top-of-the-line portable radios. It comes in 3 variations: Model 1 (no-screen), Model 2 (LCD screen with ltd. keypad) and Model 3 (LCD w/ full keypad). On the inside, this radio is capable of encryption, software updates, and features that when included in your radio can make it compatible with the Sherif and USAF. This is a very capable radio and the price tag reflects this > NEW try $2500-5000.

You have to do a little research on the XTS5000 to truly see what I am talking about with flashcodes.

At this point I would not suggest purchasing anything, just for the fact that you may end up with a paperweight if you purchase the wrong radio for what you need. Do a little bit of research on Motorola ASTRO and find out the specs of the county Sheriff and USAF and report back. I’d be happy to give more info/advice knowing what you are dealing with.


Thanks, I had no idea it was this involved. You potentially saved me from wasting a lot of money. I think Ill just have to go through the agency I work for and see what they recommend. If I can find out anything specific Ill post back here.

I recently purchased in XTS 5000 model 3 off eBay with FPP. Can the radio still have FPP even though the flashcode does not have it, flashcode 5A9088-101D87-2. Thanks.

Bottom line; if the Sheriff’s office requires you to have a radio in your personal vehicle, you will be provided with one.

If they don’t provide you one, you won’t find a radio anywhere that will work. If the local Sheriff radios are not encrypted, they soon will be.

Listening to the local sheriff and police radios for interest or a hobby is a thing of the past. Almost every police agency in North America is or will be encrypted very shortly.

As a volunteer, you will not be authorized to transmit on their frequencies regardless, even if they were unencrypted. Their licence will only include the specific radios they have listed on their licence. Sorry, but that is a fact of modern two-way radio communications. It can’t be done. If any person off the street could simply buy the same radio on eBay and find a way to program them, they could disrupt radio communications and put lives in danger. As a volunteer, you will be able to understand this fully.

Here in Canada, a radio enthusiast was given encryption codes from a police radio technician and used illegal software to program his own radios to listen to police frequencies. Last week, after a lengthy investigation with the U.S. FCC, Industry Canada and the local police agency, they were both arrested and now face up to ten years in jail.

I’d get in touch with the SO’s communications department and ask for advice. Like others have said, there are a lot of factors to consider.