Statewide radio system upgrade will be necessary before 2023

The State of South Dakota implemented a digital public safety radio network in 2003 to address shortcomings with previous state-operated communication systems. Natural disasters and other mulit-agency response events exposed the legacy communication structure to significant coverage gaps and incompatibilities.

Today’s system is utilized on a primary or secondary basis by nearly every first responder agency in the state. During the 2018 calendar year, the traffic generated on the system was primarily by local agencies (71%), with the state government (16%) and tribal (12%) as the other major users.

This system, like any other technology solution, is reaching a point of obsolescence and has been discontinued by the manufacturers. Parts will be unavailable for this system by the end of 2023. The manufacture will no longer support the network’s operating system or any of the hardware that has been upgraded over the years.

The Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) has operational and maintenance responsibilities of the network, with advisory oversight by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety Communications Council (SDPSCC). Tim Rave, President & CEO of SDAHO is a member of the SDPSCC. Both entities have been actively engaged in the process of determining a manageable path forward.

Public safety and compliance in this area is a priority for SDAHO. The association is committed to monitoring this issue over the next couple of years. This major upgrade will bring the network control center and tower sites up to the full Project 25 (P25) operating system, the national standard for public safety communications with long-term support. The project is expected to commence July 2023 and completed within three months with agency responsibility being the reprogramming or replacement of their equipment to a compatible format.

All first responders will be required to ensure they are in compliance. Stay tuned for updates.