Polk County, Fla., recently completed a series of communications initiatives designed to meet FCC mandates and let public-safety personnel respond to emergencies in a more efficient manner, according to Ben Holycross, radio systems manager for Polk County.

At the heart of the communications initiatives was the county’s 800 MHz radio system, Holycross said. Under the FCC’s rebanding mandate, Polk County was required to relocate its analog radio to new frequencies in the 800 MHz band, with Sprint paying the relocation costs. Instead of simply relocating the analog network to different spectrum, Polk County found other funding sources to pay for an upgrade to a digital P25 system that includes new tower sites that address coverage issues in certain areas, Holycross said.

“Instead of rebanding a bunch of then-13-year-old equipment, we basically were able to negotiate … a P25 migration,” Holycross said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Sprint covered part of that cost, grant funding covered part of that cost, and then the county had to foot the bill for about $7 million. That took us from an analog system to a P25 system.

“At the same time, we were looking at coverage of movements that entailed building three new tower sites and moving one of the existing tower sites.”

Coverage tests conducted in Polk County after the deployment went very well, Holycross said. In addition, the effective coverage area of the system also has expanded dramatically, thanks to an agreement with Highlands County, which is located south of Polk County and has deployed a five-site simulcast system, Holycross said.

 “We tied [Highlands County’s] system controller into our core router, so the Polk County system is now a three county regional system—we had Polk and Hardee County before, and now Highlands has joined the group,” he said. “In about 5,000 square miles of central Florida, public-safety people can roam anywhere within those three counties without ever having to change channels on the radios—they are talking to their own people and their own dispatch center, no matter where they are at.”