Bob Parnass, AJ9S
Uniden BC296D Portable Scanner
e reviewed the Uniden BC250D
handheld scanner in May 2003.
The new Uniden BC296D model
is basically a BC250D fitted with enhanced firmware to add new capabilities. Both models compete with the Radio Shack PRO-96 (Dec. 2003
Both the BC250D and BC296D share the
same wide frequency coverage, including the
UHF military air band. Both models can follow
conversations in conventional and several different types of trunked systems, but trunk tracking is where the two scanners differ.
The earlier BC250D could demodulate
APCO P-25 digital signals only when fitted with
an optional BCi 25D card. The BC296D scanner contains a new digital card
which is furnished with the radio. The Radio Shack PRO-96 is
designed to demodulate C4FM
signals. Both Uniden models can
detect both C4FM and the
newer, less common CQPSK
type modulation.
The BC296D and PRO-96
are able to track APCO 25 systems which employ a control
channel with either a 3600 or
9600 bps (bits per second) rate.
The BC250D does not support
the 9600 bps control channel.
There are no APCO 25 digital trunked systems located
within our reception range, so we
could test BC296D only with
analog systems.
The BC296D has more features than we will cover, therefore we recommend you download an electronic copy of the
owner’s manual from the Support section at http://
Like the BC250D, the
BC296D tunes 25 - 512, 806 956 (minus cellular phone), and
1240 - 1300 MHz.
The BC296D provides 8 step sizes plus an
AUTO setting, the latter being determined by
frequency. A 6.25 kHz step has been added beyond the choices available in the older BC250D,
though a 8.33 kHz step is not supported by
either model. The PRO-96 steps sizes are “hard
coded” and not user selectable.
The BC296D Service Search, Limit Search,
and Auto Store implementations rank among the
best of any handheld model we’ve tested. There
April 2004
are 10 limit search ranges which can be “chained”
together. The BC296D user can choose the frequency step in each limit search bank.
The 12 Service Search banks are weather,
public safety, news, television broadcast audio,
ham radio, marine, railroad, air, CB, FRS/GMRS,
racing, and special. The “special” bank consists
of low power, itinerant, and interstitial frequencies. We heard fast food drive up window intercoms in this bank, for example.
What You Get
The BC296D comes with a user manual
and two frequency guides. The supplied 6 inch,
rubber covered antenna looks to be the same
helical antenna used by other recent Uniden
The BC296D is packed
with a CDROM containing
software for controlling and
programming the scanner using
a PC running Microsoft Windows. The software was not
ready when our sample
BC296D was sent from
Uniden, but should be included
by the time you read this column.
Uniden includes a cable to
connect the BC296 to a
computer’s 9-pin serial port.
One BC296D may be cloned
to another using the furnished
cable together with an optional
Uniden’s custom 4.8 volt,
1500 mAH NiMH rechargeable
battery pack (see photo) is
packed inside the radio. The
included AD-600U wall wart
power supply is used to recharge the internal battery in 14
to 16 hours. You can listen to
the scanner while recharging,
but the manual warns that you
should disconnect the wall wart
after charging completes.
Radio Shack’s GRE-made scanners have a
superior battery setup. They are powered by
four individual AA batteries and you, the customer, get to choose your favorite style alkaline,
NiCD, or NiMH batteries. GRE-made scanners
like the PRO-92 and PRO-95 are supplied with
two battery holders; one for rechargeable and
another for alkaline cells.
A regulated supply could be connected to
the BC296D via the optional UA502 DC power
cord, available at the Uniden web site for $6.60.
The snap on plastic belt clip is the same
type which comes with the BC250D. Four fingers clamp into notches on the sides of the radio
and a spring loaded clip grabs your belt.
The BC296D’s 1000 memory channels are
separated into 10 banks of 100 channels each.
Each conventional channel may be programmed
with these attributes: a frequency and mode (AM,
FM, WFM, NFM), a 16 character label, step
size, rescan delay on/off, lockout, attenuator on/
off, CTCSS or DCS tone squelch, and beep alert.
Trunked Systems
There are a wide variety of trunked systems in use and the BC250D is designed to track
conversations in these systems: Motorola Types
1, 2 (VHF, 400, 800, and 900 MHz), EDACS
(Wideband 9600 baud, Narrow 4800 baud, and
SCAT), and LTR. SCAT stands for Single Channel Autonomous Trunking and is an EDACS
configuration in which a single frequency serves
down” to the STEP submenu, change the step
size to 25 kHz, then re-enter the 335.525 frequency. Now, the BC296D will accept the frequency without rounding.
You can program alphanumeric labels for
memory channels, banks, and talk groups. The
BC296D makes it easier to distinguish “new hits”
from previously programmed talk groups. If a
programmed talk group becomes active while
searching for new talk groups, the BC296D will
display both the ID and the group label. This is an
improvement over the earlier BC250D which
would show the ID but not the label while searching. If the BC296D detects activity on a talk group
not previously programmed, the word NEW is
You can tune the BC296D to a frequency
without programming it in a memory channel using the following procedure:
as both as a control and voice channel.
The BC296D can demodulate APCO 25
digital voice on conventional and trunked systems employing 3600 and 9600 baud control
channel signaling, with C4FM or CQPSK modulation.
Uniden BC296D Scanner
S/N 319Z34000012
List price $999.99
Uniden America Corp.
4700 Amon Carter Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76155
tel. (800) 554-3988
Frequency coverage (MHz):
25 - 512
806 - 823.9875
849.0125 - 868.9875
894.0125 - 956
1240 - 1300
Step sizes (kHz):
5, 6.25 7.5, 10, 12.5, 25, 50, and 100,
AM, WFM, FM, NFM, conventional digital
APCO 25, user selectable
Motorola Type I, II, IIi Hybrid, APCO 25
Phase 1 digital (3600 and 9600 bps control channel), EDACS, EDACS SCAT, LTR.
NFM modulation acceptance:
12.5 kHz
Audio output at earphone jack:
0.11 watts @ 9% distortion
1 dB @ 40 MHz
10 dB @ 155 MHz
23 dB @ 460 MHz
27.5 dB @ 860 MHz
Image Rejection Due to 1st IF (380.7
39 dB @ 40 MHz
46 dB @ 155 MHz
92 dB @ 460 MHz
74 dB @ 860 MHz
As with the earlier Uniden models, EDACS
and LTR frequencies must be programmed into
memory channels in the proper sequence.
The BC296D is a large scanner – near in
size to the Radio Shack PRO-92. Rubber grips
along the side of the BC296D make it easier to
hold without slipping from the hand.
The BC296D’s liquid crystal display is a
dot matrix, i.e., composed entirely of small dots.
The display options are essentially the same as
the BC250D. Pressing the lamp key causes the
display to be lit in an orange color and there are
menu options for two brightness levels. The
lamp times out after 15 seconds or may be set to
remain on continuously.
Missing from the display are indicators for
Tone Squelch, Attenuator, and Rescan Delay, so
you cannot tell at a glance whether these options are enabled or disabled on a particular channel. To view a channel’s configuration, push and
hold the Menu/Back key for a couple of seconds. You can then see the channel settings, but
you must scroll through them because the screen
shows only three settings at a time.
The keypad can be backlit, which makes it
easy to use the BC296D in the dark. The keys
have tactile feedback, but require more pressure
than other models. It’s a good idea to enable the
keypad confirmation beep tone.
You can program conventional memory
channel frequencies using one of two procedures:
1) By positioning to the desired channel, then
typing in the frequency followed by pressing
the E key, or 2) Navigating the menu system.
The simpler, direct method works, but only
for frequencies which coincide with the default
step size. For example, the default step size is
50 kHz in the 225 - 399.95 MHz military air
band. If you enter 335.525 MHz directly, the
BC296D will coerce the frequency to 335.55.
You can then use the menu system to “drill
1. From normal SCAN mode, momentarily
press HOLD/MAN.
2. Then press and hold the HOLD/MAN
button until the display changes to
3. Then type in the freq you want to tune to
without hitting E/enter (i.e. 1, 6, 2, ., 5 for
162.5 MHz)
4. Finally, push the rotary up or down and the
radio tunes to your frequency.
Other Observations
Our BC296D has loud audio, better than the
tiny palm sized scanners we usually carry. The
user manual does a fair job covering the BC296D’s
features, though we found the instructions for
programming a trunked system had some gaps.
The BC296D strikes us as more powerful
than the PRO-96 for general purpose scanning
due to the Uniden’s wider frequency coverage,
richer search capabilities, selectable step sizes,
C4FM/CQPSK demodulator, FM bandwidth
choices, and other features.
That said, the PRO-96 has a better battery
arrangement, multiple configurations (virtual folders), and an instant CTCSS display.
❖ Trunkito MPT1327 Trunk
Tracking Software
MPT1327 is the trunking standard in Europe and popular in other parts of the world, except for the USA. Several manufacturers build
MPT1327 compliant radio equipment, but there
are no hobbyist scanning receivers designed to
track MPT1327 systems.
Javier Moreno wrote in to alert us to
Trunkito, new MPT1327 trunk tracking software
for hobbyists. Trunkito decodes and tracks
MPT1327 trunked systems and runs on computers equipped with the Linux operating system, a
sound card, and an ICOM receiver. Trunkito may
be used with a single ICOM scanner or with two
scanners; an ICOM for tracking calls and a generic
scanner for decoding the control channel.
Trunkito is free, open source software. See
the http://unixforge.org/~tronkito web page for
more information.
The Uniden BC-296D is available for $524.95
plus shipping from Grove Enterprises (1-800-4388155 or visit http://www.grove-ent.com).
April 2004