Work on a statewide P25 deployment in Ohio is progressing as scheduled, which means the system should be operational during the first quarter of next year, according to Darryl Anderson, program manager for Ohio’s Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS).

MARCS is migrating from a four-zone Motorola SmartNet/SmartZone system to a full P25 architecture with five controllers, Anderson said. Both systems support seamless roaming for LMR users, he said.

“We plan on turning the old system off in March of next year,” Anderson said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Of course, there will be some project closeout, but we plan on being totally done by July of next year.”

By making the LMR upgrade, MARCS will realize a couple of key benefits, Anderson said.

“Number one, we’ll get considerably more coverage and capacity, because we’ll have considerably more towers on the IP platform than we did on the [SmartNet/SmartZone system],” Anderson said.

In addition, the P25 system will allow MARCS to leverage 700 MHz airwaves, which are much more plentiful in the state than 800 MHz spectrum, Anderson said.

“When we got in the 800 MHz business, a lot of the 800 MHz frequencies were already allocated, so we were kind of frequency-starved in several places,” he said. “But, with the 700 MHz frequencies, we’re going to have a great deal more capacity.”

Indeed, the P25 approach being deployed by MARCS will support as many as 128,000 radios throughout Ohio, Anderson said.

“The number-one strategic goal in our statewide interoperability executive committee’s SCIP (statewide communication interoperability plan) is to create a statewide P25 system of systems, which will allow us to collapse a lot of local systems that are suboptimal,” Anderson said. “This upgrade is key to all of that.”