Novatel 8300, 8301, and 8305

Novatel 830X Cellular Transceivers 

Novatel was a a division spun off from Alberta Government Telecom (AGT).

Based in Calgary, Novatel performed all the R&D and prototyping for a series of cellular analogue mobile phones using the AMPS standard, adopted throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand at that time. There was a manufacturing facility located in Lethbridge AB, with some other volume component manufacturing sub-contracted into SE Asia.

Known quirks:

  • There was a batch of PCB mount potentiometers used in the manufacture of the transceivers that were sub-standard (that came out of the SE Asia production), and this generated a major recall / modification of the units. Not hard to fix, but the units would eventually wander out of specification randomly.
  • The EEPROM used in the radio for storing configuration and user programming had a limited life expectancy or 7 to 10 years, and had extensive software write / re-write / error checking facilities, all of which expired once the memory size was eventually exhausted.
  • The 8300 and 8301 units had a facility where the (transponded from Rx to Tx) digital colour code tone (DCC) 'phase' could be adjusted, allowing some base station equipment to perform very accurate distance measuring to the subscriber unit. This was definety not implemented in Australia, and understand did not gain any traction globally. Not 100% sure, but I think this phase adjustment was not implemenetd in the 8305.
  • There were two hardware versions for each of the 830X series transceivers, one version was constructed using the more expensive chipsets comprising low power schottky and CMOS, and these transceivers were used exclusively in the 'transportable' version.  The compliance / model labels for each were subtly different, but have forgotten what the difference was. [someone may still know]
  • The RJ-45 handset and control interconnects used a 180 degree pin reversal cable, meaning that straight thru RJ-45 LAN interconnect cables would not work (and probably damage the unit).
  • The unit can be configured as a dumb cellular scanner in short order, and was always going to be popular among scanner enthusiasts.
  • With a simple (single) hardware modification, it is possible to configure the radio to be a 'really smart scanner' selectively scan and follow 'other' analogue mobile phone identity from the paging channel to any BTS defined channel. Demonstarted to law enforcement at the time, other means of legal wiretapping cellular systems was eventually agreed.

Further Reading

Novatel 8300 series manual (pdf, 2.8Mb)