In November, 2019 I bought a Bridgecom BCR-220 repeater and duplexer to set up at my home. I wanted to learn about repeaters, and owning one and working with it seemed like an obvious way to make progress. I was also concerned about emergency communications in our valley being dependent on my club’s core repeater, which is located up on Cougar Mountain, a location which would be hard to reach if we have trouble with the repeater during a disaster. Local repeaters accessible from the valley don’t have the wide coverage but at least they can be reached even if everything goes to hell in a handbasket.
I might have opted for a 440MHz repeater but in this area getting a coordinated repeater pair on that band is a problem because there are so many repeaters; same thing for the 2m band. And the 1.25m/220MHz band is way underused, so getting a coordinated frequency pair to operate on is easy.
I took delivery of the repeater in December, 2019. My friend Tom, WA7TBP took delivery of a BCR-220 at just about the same time.
Our experience with the BCR-220 has been pretty awful.
In June, 2020, having been in very light duty operation roughly six months, my repeater started putting out zero watts.
It was returned to Bridgecom for repair under warranty.
In September, 2021, having been in very light duty operation another 14 months, the repeater failed again, putting out zero watts. Again, it was immediately returned to Bridgecom for repair under warranty.
The repeater failed again, zero watts out in February, 2022. It had been in operation another six months, again very light duty operation.
At this point the repeater was out of warranty, and given that it had failed three times with the same exact symptoms, I pretty much figured it was a worthless piece of crap and set about trying to scrounge up two Alinco DR-235T Mk III radios I could use to build a 220 repeater.
But Tom (who had had his identical repeater fail twice) kept urging me to give Bridgecom a chance to repair mine under warranty, as they’d taken that step for him.
So I reached out to Bridgecom, asking if they’d consider repairing my repeater at their cost, despite it being out of warranty. I also asked them about replacing the 220 modules with 440MHz modules to turn the repeater into a 440MHz repeater, figuring I could either use it as a portable repeater or I could then sell it.
Bridgecom say they will repair it under warranty, so it goes back to them once again.
What I’ll do with it when it comes back to me is not clear. I’d like to have a functioning 220MHz repeater, but honestly the Bridgecom does not look like it could be a part of that setup.
Tom’s repeater and mine make up a small sample of 2, but given that in 28 months of very light duty operation we had a total of 5 failures across two units, that’s a pretty dismal reliability record. That’s a total of 56 months of operation, with 5 failures, for MTTF of just over 11 months. If you figure a month out of operation every time it fails, gets returned for repair, gets repaired and shipped back, and is then returned to service, that means the repeater is in operation only 90% of the time, which is hopeless.
That’s not acceptable for unimportant social use, and it’s absolutely unacceptable for a piece of gear intended to be part of emergency communications planning.
I’m guessing there’s some massive reliability/quality control issue with the 220 MHz Maxon radio modules that Bridgecom used in these repeaters, and that Bridgecom are aware of this, and that’s been a major factor in Bridgecom dropping the 220MHz repeater from their lineup.